HAMADONI DISTRICT, Tajikistan — Using a raft made of scrap wood and the inner tube of a truck tire, four armed men recently crossed the river from Afghanistan to a tiny, nameless border settlement here and kidnapped the two adolescent sons of a local army recruiter.
With their hostages, they then crossed back into Afghanistan and called the recruiter, demanding $55,000. They threatened to kill his sons and sell their organs on the black market if he refused.
Such kidnappings, along with murders, armed clashes and other violence, have become persistent features of life along Tajikistan’s extensive border with Afghanistan. A largely unprotected expanse of severe peaks and dusty plains, the border is practically all that separates the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and beyond from the chaos of one of the world’s most war-ravaged countries.