Tajikistan’s president visits area hit by violent unrest, lashes out at role of criminal gangs

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – Tajikistan’s president visited a mountainous region on the Central Asian nation’s border with Afghanistan on Wednesday for the first time since dozens were killed there in battles between armed gangs and government troops.

Emomali Rakhmon said in the eastern town of Khorog that the unrest had been provoked by the impunity of criminal organizations in the area.

Government forces unleashed a massive operation in July in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan province, in what they said was an effort to capture the killers of a top security official.

Analysts have suggested the campaign was actually a bid by the central government to bolster its authority in an area it has only loosely controlled since the civil war of the 1990s. Tajikistan, a mainly Muslim nation of 7 million people, was ravaged by the civil war that pitted Rakhmon’s secular government against a loose alliance of Islamists and democrats.

Hints of possible instability on the porous border with Afghanistan are viewed with concern by the international community, particularly in view of the planned withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014.

Security has been tightened in locations visited by Rakhmon.

Rakhmon said the murder of Gen. Abdullo Nazarov was a violation of a tacit long-standing understanding between influential local groups and his government.

Rakhmon criticized local law enforcement officials and insisted they investigate the recent events “honestly.”

The four former warlords sought after the Nazarov murder were linked by the authorities with drug trafficking and the smuggling of precious stones and tobacco. Two of them have turned themselves in, one was killed in what is believed to have been a government raid, while another remains at large.

A letter addressed to Rakhmon written by a committee of Gorno-Badakhshan residents on the eve of the visit said the recent events had undermined public trust toward the government.

Several thousand people turned out Wednesday in Khorog to see Rakhmon, but the committee’s letter suggested many had been intimidated into attending.

“People have been forced to take part in public meetings with the president under threat of dismissal from their jobs,” the letter said. “Government employees, teachers, doctors, and students are especially being compelled (to attend).”

The letter also alleged local people had been forbidden from speaking to the president about the unrest.

via Tajikistan’s president visits area hit by violent unrest, lashes out at role of criminal gangs.

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