Uzbek Rail Blast Sparks Terror Fears

Uzbek Rail Blast Sparks Terror Fears

Bridge connecting Afghan town of Hairatan with Termez in Uzbekistan – a key transit route. (Photo: Bundeswehr-Fotos/Flickr)
Bridge connecting Afghan town of Hairatan with Termez in Uzbekistan – a key transit route. (Photo: Bundeswehr-Fotos/Flickr)

The authorities in Uzbekistan are treating an explosion on a railway bridge near Termez, on the Afghan border, as a terrorist attack. 

The state-run Pravda Vostoka newspaper reported that a criminal investigation had been launched following the blast, which took place on the night of November 16 to 17.

The November 19 report did not supply further details, but a police source said investigators were treating it as a an act of terrorism.

The explosion hit a bridge on the railway line running eastwards from Termez to Qorghan-Teppa in southern Tajikistan.

Although the location, between the Galaba and Amuzang railway stations, lies on an eastern branch line, it is close to the north-south line from Karshi to Termez, the route used to supply freight to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst based in the United States, says the location, so close to a key transport hub, makes terrorism a likely scenario.

"Someone may have decided to disrupt the smooth running of this infrastructure," he said.

A security expert in eastern Uzbekistan in Ferghana said Uzbekistan faced a real terrorist threat, citing attacks in 1999, 2002 and 2004.

"Look what’s going on around us. The world and this region, even once-quiet Kazakstan, are being hit by terrorism,” he said, recalling a recent attack in the southern Kazak city of Taraz. (See Southern Kazak City Reels From Shooting Spree.)

In June, the Uzbek authorities called for heightened vigilance on public transport and in the streets. (See Nervous Uzbek Government Tightens Security.)

In September, President Islam Karimov signed a decree ordering tighter security on Uzbekistan’s railways. Luggage inspections became more stringent and access to some station platforms was restricted to travellers.

"There’s been palpable concern about an imminent terrorist threat in the last few months," a railway official who asked not to be identified said. According to this official, the security measures put in place so far had been ineffective.

This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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