Thirteen members of armed groups who had Friday launched attacks against police in Tajikistan were killed Saturday during a major police operation that also allowed to make several arrests, announced the Ministry of Interior of Tajikistan.
Friday, eight policemen and nine attackers were killed in two attacks, one against the Defense Ministry in Dushanbe, the capital, the other against a suburban police station.
The authorities immediately blamed the deputy defense minister Abdoukhalim Nazarzoda – who was immediately sacked – and moderate Islamic opposition to which it belongs have them organized.
“At present, we have arrested 32 members of the criminal group Nazarzoda, of which 13 have been eliminated,” the ministry said in a statement.
According to authorities, the perpetrators of Friday’s attacks were successful during the operation to “take a large amount of weapons and ammunition”, before fleeing especially towards the mountains north-east of the capital.
A large-scale operation was still underway Saturday with the participation of military and helicopters, to find them, while more than 500 weapons and ammunition boxes were recovered by police, according to same source.
The authorities “have proposed to the rebels to surrender, but they refused. The operation is continuing,” the ministry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday denounced an “attempt to destabilize the situation” in Tajikistan during a telephone conversation with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon and expressed his support, according to the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, quoted by the public channel Pervy Kanal.
During the bloody civil war between pro-communist power and Islamist rebels who made 150,000 dead between 1992 and 1997, Mr. Nazarzoda fighting within the united opposition which united democrats and Islamists, according to the Ministry of Interior.
He then obtained a high official position in favor of an amnesty under the peace agreements signed in 1997 and that marked the end of fighting.
The department says that Mr. Nazarzoda then joined the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), only legal Islamic party in the former Soviet republic.
This party was banned last week by authorities who accuse him of having links with the organization Islamic state. After that decision, analysts had expressed concern radicalization of the opposition.