Tajikistan Army clashes with rebels, dozens killed
Dushanbe: The Tajik government forces on Tuesday unleashed a massive operation against a rebel group in apparent retaliation for the fatal stabbing of a top security official, triggering clashes that killed dozens.
The government said 12 government troops and 30 militants were killed. However, a security services official told The Associated Press that about 20 government troops were killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak to the media.
The fighting marked one of the worst outbursts of violence in Tajikistan since a 2010 government campaign to wipe out Islamist militants in another region.
It threatens to undermine stability in the impoverished ex-Soviet nation bordering Afghanistan to the north, reviving the specter of a devastating five-year civil war that ravaged the country in the 1990s.
The clashes occurred in the mountainous semi-autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan province bordering Afghanistan. One of those killed was the commander of a special forces unit, the security services official said.
Tajikistan's chief military prosecutor, Khairullo Saidov, was wounded in his foot during the fighting, the official said. He said the military operation would continue Wednesday.
Many ambulances were seen driving from the airport to hospitals in the capital, Dushanbe, suggesting that a significant number of troops were in need of treatment.
The operation was launched after Abdullo Nazarov, a general with Tajikistan's national intelligence service, was stabbed to death Saturday in Ishkashim, some 520 kilometers east of the capital, Dushanbe.
Authorities have blamed the killing on an armed group led by Tolib Ayombekov, a former warlord. Ayombekov was given a government post as part of a UN-brokered peace plan that ended the country's 1992-1997 civil war between President Emomali Rakhmon's secular government and his mostly Islamic opponents.
More than 50,000 people are believed to have died in that conflict.