Tajikistan’s government has blocked the websites of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Russian TV channel Vesti, local internet providers told RIA Novosti on Monday.
“The decision has been taken by the Governmental Communications Service,” an internet provider company spokesman said.
Tajikistan’s internet users say access to Vesti and BBC has been blocked since July 29. Earlier authorities severed access to YouTube.
Experts link the move to a controversial armed conflict in the east of the republic that took place on July 24. At least nine Tajik security officers were killed and another 25 others injured in a special operation in Tajikistan’s eastern city of Khorog against a mafia-style group believed to be behind the murder of a top Tajik security general, Abdullo Nazarov.
Dushanbe denies any casualties among civilians, but the opposition media reported some 200 dead, including security officers and civilians.
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 reestablish control over the region which has long been known as a fiefdom of local warlords.
On July 23, a day before the controversial conflict, a demonstration that apparently sparked the anger of the country's authorities was held in Khorog. A video captured during the mass event and later posted on YouTube shows that one of those addressing the demonstration was Sabzali Mamadrizoyev, the head of the regional branch of Tajikistan's Islamic Revival Party (IRP).
Mamadrizoyev criticized the poor social and economic situation in the country and the inactivity of authorities. The activist was found dead three days later. On Monday, Tajikistan's Islamic Revival Party officially confirmed the assassination of Mamadrizoyev, Asia Plus news portal said.
“After the July 23 meeting, Sabzali Mamadrizoyev was detained by law enforcement authorities and taken to the Khorog border unit,” Asia Plus quoted as saying an IRP member from Khorog, without giving his name. “He was severely beaten there and then shot with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Mamadrizoyev’s body was found three days later and he was buried on July 26.”
The Gorno-Badakhshan region where the conflict occured remains volatile 15 years after a civil war between the Moscow-backed government and an Islamist-led opposition. Close to 50,000 people were killed during the conflict. The five-year war ended in 1997 with a United Nations-brokered peace agreement.
Tajikistan on Saturday closed all crossing points on the border with Afghanistan.
Tajik activists have sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to help resolve the conflict.