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Halt to Fighting in Tajikistan's East, No Clear Outcome
A day after heavy fighting in Badakhshan in eastern Tajikistan, provincial governor Qadir Qasim has announced a ceasefire.
What was less clear, however, was whether the Tajik government military had achieved its objective of crushing rebel forces under Tolib Ayombekov, a one-time guerrilla commander in the 1992-97 civil war and more recently a border guards officer.
The army was sent into Badakhshan after Ayombekov refused either to be interviewed about the July 21 killing of local security service commander Major-General Abdullo Nazarov, or to surrender individuals accused of being directly involved. (See Unprecedented Clashes in Southeast Tajikistan.)
By the end of July 24, the authorities said 12 members of the security forces had been killed in fierce fighting, and 30 of Ayombekov’s men.
On July 25, the Tajik military and police held talks with Ayombekov’s group and agreed a ceasefire. So far it seems to be holding – gunfire is no longer heard in the main provincial town, Khorog.
Road, air and phone communications with the capital Dushanbe remain completely cut.
Saifullo Safarov, head of the Strategic Studies Institute in the capital, says the government had no option but to take action after Nasriev’s murder.
“This is about criminal groups growing in strength and consolidating – groups that no longer acknowledge the state,” he said. “The general’s murder is a consequence of these people acting in this way for a long time.”
Parviz Mullojanov, a political analyst in Dushanbe, questions the wisdom of sending so many armed troops into Badakhshan as an immediate response to the crisis.
“They shouldn’t have started [the operation] in the first place. They should have confined themselves to conducting an investigation, and depending on the results of that, find ways of making arrests,” he said. “Since things have now got as far as they have, the main thing now is to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised, and ensure that the local population is affected as little as possible.”
Shahodat Saibnazarova is IWPR Radio Editor in Tajikistan.
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