Tajikistan’s government has said on Wednesday that it had eliminated a group of Islamist rebels behind recent deadly street battles in the volatile ex-Soviet state.
The interior ministry of the impoverished country bordering Afghanistan said it had eliminated a rebel group led by former deputy defence minister, Abdukhalim Nazaroda.
“The terrorist group headed by ex-deputy defence minister Abdukhalim Nazaroda has been liquidated in the course of a joint operation of government troops,” an interior ministry source told AFP.
He added that “Abdukhalim Nazaroda is also among the dead.”
The rebels attacked police stations and an airport in the capital Dushanbe earlier this month, killing nine police and wounding 10. 13 militants were also killed in the attack.
Tajikistan launched an air and ground operation against the rebels, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the government.
It said earlier on Wednesday that the rebels had killed four troops including a special forces commander in a shootout.
The rebels were hiding in the mountainous Ramit Valley around 60km (35 miles) east of Dushanbe.
Nazaroda served as deputy defence minister until his dismissal this month. He has been charged with treason, terrorism, sabotage and creating an extremist group.
Nazaroda fought with the Islamist opposition against the secular government during a five-year civil war that ended in 1997 with a deal that saw former rebels integrated into the defence ministry.
Tajik President Emoli Rahman promised that perpetrators of armed attacks would be “deservedly punished”.
Tajikistan on Tuesday hosted a summit of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a regional security organisation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the summit that Tajikistan was facing “attempts to destabilise the situation” and pledged Russia’s assistance if needed.