At least 42 people have been killed and 40 arrested as a result of a special military operation in Khorugh, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of Tajikistan, officials reported (24 July). The deadly fighting erupted after supporters of the former opposition commander were accused of the murder of the region’s top security official.
The clashes occurred three days after the fatal stabbing of General Abdullo Nazarov, Regional Head of the State Committee for National Security. Few details have come to light aside from the knowledge that a group of attackers stabbed him to death in the outskirts of Khorugh, a small town on the border with Afghanistan. With almost no time for a proper investigation, authorities have pinned the killing on a group headed by Tolib Ayombekov, a former opposition commander.
“On July 21st, the group brutally murdered General Abdullo Nazarov, the regional head of the State Committee for National Security,” Nozirjon Buriev, spokesperson for the State Committee for National Security, told RFE/RL. “The armed, illegal group led by Ayombekov has, over the years, been involved in drug trafficking and also tobacco smuggling and the trafficking of minerals. It has also committed numerous, serious crimes.”
Ayombekov has claimed the accusations were groundless, asserting that Nazarov died as a result of getting into a drunken argument at a local bar in a town near Khorugh. “He fell and knocked his head against a rock. It was a lethal injury.”
No information exits concerning the exact number of casualties suffered amongst the local population. A BBC report (24 July) suggested that the number of military personnel and civilians killed in clashes exceeded 200. All means of communications remain cut off after more than 40 hours, leaving people in Khorugh and their friends and families in complete isolation.
The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, ordered a cease-fire (25 July). In the meantime, tentative reports have indicated that 300-400 people gathered in Khorugh Central Square seeking an end to the fighting, and asking for the opportunity to collect dead and wounded people from the streets.
Photo © Ziyoda Kurbanova for The Global Journal.