Dushanbe: Tajikistan on Tuesday said it had
successfully repatriated more than 100 students who had been
studying illegally in Egypt as part of a government drive to
limit the influence of foreign religious schools.
The students, who had been studying at Cairo`s
prestigious Al-Azhar University, were sent packing yesterday
after Dushanbe reached out to Cairo to ask for their return, a
spokesman for the government`s religious affairs committee said to a news agency.
"Tajik Airlines yesterday returned about 134 young Tajiks
to the country from Egypt, where they were studying," he said.
Negotiations with Egypt for the return of the students,
whom the official said had travelled via Russia and other
unnamed countries without the necessary government permission
to study abroad, began earlier this autumn.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmon earlier this year
blamed foreign madrassas for radicalising his impoverished
country`s youth and called on parents not to send their
children abroad to study.
A majority-Muslim country and the poorest state to emerge
from the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago,
Tajikistan has been wracked over the last three months by
violence blamed on Islamist militants.
Dushanbe has said the incidents, including a suicide car
bombing and a devastating attack on a military convoy that
killed at least 28 soldiers, were plotted and carried out by
al Qaeda-linked militants operating out of Afghanistan.
Tajikistan, where a civil war between Islamist forces and
backers of Rakhmon`s secular government killed tens of
thousands following the collapse of the Soviet Union, shares a
porous 1,300-kms border with Afghanistan.
As many as 1,000 Tajik students remain at Al-Azhar, the
official said, of whom only a handful are there legally. The
government is currently negotiating their return as well.