Monday, October 4, 2010
Islamist militants have killed five members of an elite Tajik police force in a clash in the troubled east of the Central Asian country, the interior ministry says.
"The police sustained the losses in the course of an operation against an armed group of Islamists in the Kamarob Gorge in the east of the country," an interior ministry spokesman told AFP on Monday.
"Five police from an elite division were killed," he said, and four were wounded, while "between two and eight rebels were killed".
The police were hunting down insurgents blamed for the September ambush of a military convoy in the Rasht Valley region east of the capital, Dushanbe, in which 28 troops were killed.
Several thousand servicemen have been taking part in a massive military operation over the last 10 days, and government officials said earlier they had killed eight rebels and captured five.
Tajikistan has been hit by an upsurge of unrest in recent months since 25 al-Qaeda-linked militants escaped from a prison in a brazen night-time getaway in August in which six guards were killed.
"The time for talks with armed bandits has passed," the secretary of the country's security council, general Amirkul Azimov, told journalists last week before travelling to the troubled region.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, last month claimed responsibility for the ambush, calling it revenge for Dushanbe's cooperation with NATO forces fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The IMU - branded a terrorist organisation by the US - was founded in the late-1990s in Tajikistan with the goal of overthrowing Uzbek president Islam Karimov and creating an Islamic Sharia law state in the ex-Soviet republic.
The group later moved to northern Afghanistan under the Taliban regime and was thought to have been depleted during NATO's fierce bombing campaign at the opening of the US-led invasion of that country in 2001.
Tajikistan, where a bloody civil war between Islamist forces and backers of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, shares a porous 1300-km border with Afghanistan.
© 2010 AFP
Posted by Cole at 12:04 PM