A pair of incidents in Vahdat and Dushanbe early Friday bring into sharp focus several complex layers of tension in Tajikistan. Eurasianet’s early report is a must-read, laying out the initial news and reporting from local sources. According to Eurasianet:
Raids on police stations and military bases early on September 4 appeared well-coordinated and involved individuals that only recently occupied important government posts. According to the Interior Ministry, 17 were killed, including eight law enforcement officials and nine militant gunmen.
The sequence of events is unclear, but one of the first flashpoints seems to have been at a military base near the airport in Dushanbe, where a group of people intruded and carried away large amounts of small arms and ammunition.
Some of the alleged attackers were identified as former members of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) who had been given government posts as part of the peace accords. Subsequent reports from the Tajik government say that Abduhalim Nazarov, a deputy defense minister who was also a member of the UTO and moved into the government after the peace, orchestrated the attacks. RFE/RL reported that Nazarov has been dismissed and later (link in Russian) that the Interior Ministry is saying he has fled to Romit, which is in Vahdat district east of Dushanbe.
The news is still very much muddled with regard to the causes of the violence, intent of the attackers, and relation between the two incidents. Complicating the events, (though not necessarily related directly) is news from earlier in the week that police in Vahdat had beaten a college student, Umar Bobojonov, allegedly because he wore a beard.
The crackdown by the Tajik government on opposition, as well as expressions of Islam, provides a background for the violence. The Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) was ordered to close by Tajik authorities last week, the culmination of a long steady march to shut the party down. While the IRPT formed a part of the UTO during the Tajik civil war, as Peter Leonard noted on Twitter, law enforcement officials in Tajikistan are barred from political parties so claims that Nazarov is a member are false. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that over the years there have been other similar incidents–with their own complex sparks–involving former UTO commanders.