DUSHANBE: Eight police officers and nine alleged militants were killed in two shootouts in Tajikistan on Friday that the government blamed on a deputy defence minister and the country’s moderate Islamic opposition.
The US embassy in Tajikistan meanwhile warned the unrest might be a precursor to “other acts of violence.
“An armed group killed four police in an early morning shootout on the outskirts of the capital Dushanbe and a further four policemen were killed in a shootout in the town of Vahdat just outside the capital Dushanbe, the interior ministry said.
Nine alleged militants were killed during the shootouts, the ministry said, adding that another six were detained.
“The terrorist group was led by deputy defence minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda,” a police spokesman said.
The government announced later on Friday that Nazarzoda had been relieved of his duties “in connection with a crime committed”.
The interior ministry said Nazarzoda fought on the side of the United Tajik Opposition during a civil war that lasted between 1992 to 1997.
Authorities also claimed that the deputy defence minister was a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) that the government effectively shut down last week.
The party is an umbrella opposition bloc for moderate Muslims as well as more secular-minded Tajiks following a 1997 peace deal between the government and the United Tajik Opposition that ended the civil war.
The US embassy in Tajikistan said it was temporarily closing and advised American officials not to send their children to local schools.
“Although the significance of these events is unclear, they may be precursors to other acts of violence,” the embassy said in a statement.