Confusion surrounds Tajikistan terror attack
At least 17 people died last week after suspected Islamic State militants attacked a checkpoint on the Tajik border with Uzbekistan, the Tajikistan government said.
About 20 militants attacked at 3am, killing a border guard and a police officer but 15 of the attackers were killed, the authorities said.
The interior ministry released photos of several bodies in black lying next to burned vehicles at the site.
Five Isis suspects were captured at the border 60km southwest of the capital, Dushanbe, according to the authorities.
But Radio Ozodi reported that six security personnel had died: five border guards and one police officer.
The government said the attackers were travelling in a convoy of four cars, which appear to be the same vehicles seen in the government photos.
A corpse in an official photo appears to have had his hands bound behind his back.
Analyst Parviz Mullojanov said the attack was reminiscent of the “senselessness and cruelty” of Isis.
“But the official account has so many contradictions, and it is so poorly articulated that there are a lot of ambiguities,” he said.
The government’s Khovar news agency said the attackers crossed the Afghan border earlier this month.
They reportedly trekked or drove 200km to Ishkobod on the Uzbek border.
The mountainous Central Asian republic of around 9.2 million people borders Afghanistan to the south and China to the east.
The strike occurred a day before Tajikistan and Uzbekistan reportedly agreed to settle a prolonged border dispute with the aim of signing an agreement next month.
Tajikistan worries about its porous 1,357km border with Afghanistan, which is largely controlled by militant groups on the Afghan side.
Earlier this year, the head of the border service, General Radjabali Rahmonali, said around 17,000 militants, including 6,300 foreign mercenaries, were based near the border.
So-called Islamic State has claimed several previous attacks in Tajikistan.
In May, the group killed large numbers in a prison riot east of Dushanbe. Militants pledging allegiance to Isis killed four foreign cyclists in 2018.
Tens of thousands were killed in Tajikistan in the five-year civil war during the 1990s.
The ex-Soviet state is run by strongman President Emomali Rahmon, 67, who was swept to power in 1992 at the start of the civil war that left 20 per cent of the population displaced.
After fighting stopped in 1997, Rahmon consolidated power, sent his opponents into exile and ended media freedom. News sites and social media are heavily restricted and less than half the population has internet access.
The Tajik-Uzbek border. Picture credit: Wikimedia