At least 17 Tajik security officers have been killed during a special operation in eastern Tajikistan against a mafia-style group believed to be behind the murder of a top Tajik security general, the Tajik Prosecutor General’s Office said on Saturday.
It said only one civilian has been killed and dozens injured but the opposition media reported about over 200 dead, including security officers and civilians.
More than 30 militants, including eight Afghan citizens, were killed and 40 were detained during the operation in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region following the murder of Abdullo Nazarov, chief of the Tajikistan National Security Committee, who was killed on July 21.
Tajik opposition activists claim that the conflict was actually an attempt by President Emomali Rakhmon to suppress opposition in the region. They have accused Tajik authorities of using Nazarov’s murder, and the recent attacks on government officials, as a pretext for an ethnic cleansing campaign, and an attempt to re-establish control over the region which has long been known as a fiefdom of local warlords.
Tajikistan has closed all crossing points on the border with Afghanistan amid a controversial armed conflict.
The Gorno-Badakhshan region remains volatile 15 years after a civil war between the Moscow-backed government and an Islamist-led opposition, in which up to 50,000 people were killed. The five-year war ended in 1997 with a United Nations-brokered peace agreement.
Dushanbe denies any casualties among civilians, but the opposition media reported about over 200 dead, including security officers and civilians.
The Tajik activists have sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to help resolve the conflict.