The response by the Tajik government to the murder of a security official last week — sending troops into the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan — may cause more harm than they anticipated.
Major General Abdullo Nazarov, the head of the regional branch of the State Committee on National Security (formerly the KGB) was apparently stabbed to death on July 22. Two days later, Tajik troops marched into Khorugh, nominally seeking to arrest Tolib Ayombekov, the head of a border post on the Afghan-Tajik frontier and an opposition commander during Tajikistan’s 1992-1997 civil war, who has been accused of the general’s murder.
Last Wednesday, a ceasefire was declared but the two sides remain at an impasse. Ayombekov’s forces refuse to surrender their weapons or their leader while the Tajik government, headed by autocratic President Emomalii Rahmon, is not perceivably ready to “save face by collecting some weapons and withdrawing.”
Andrei Grozin, head of the Central Asia Department at the CIS Institute in Moscow, was quoted as saying that “any campaign that does not end quickly risks getting bogged down in the harsh mountain winter.”
A letter confirmed accurate by sources close to EurasiaNet paints a grim picture in Khorugh, effectively held hostage by the cease fire.
99 percent of local people support these commanders. It’s a small town. Everyone is related. Everyone is family, friends. There is not a specific group the government is fighting: All local men are involved.
Reports on casualties are varied. Government figures estimate seventeen troops, thirty militants and one civilian while other estimates are higher — particularly concerning civilian deaths. Opposition sources cite two hundred overall casualties.
The most recent reports out of the region are inconsistent. Reuters reported that some rebels have begun to surrender after government threats to resume their assault but the report has not been picked up or corroborated by other news sources and only cites Tajik government officials. The situation remains tense in any event.
The shutting off of Internet, mobile and telephone services to the region makes it all the more difficult to decipher precisely what is happening. Early in the conflict, authorities severed access to YouTube in particular and as of Sunday, the websites of at least one Russian television channel and the BBC were blocked. Read more “Badakhshan-Tajikistan Clashes Risk Sparking Insurgency”