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Attack by Khudoiberdiyev possible, Tajiks say
Tajik officials confident they can repel assault
By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
DUSHANBE – Another armed incursion by followers of the insurgent ex-Tajik army colonel Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev is considered possible in Tajikistan, but security forces stand ready.
The whereabouts of the long-unseen colonel are a mystery.
Tajik officials say he is in Uzbekistan, from where his forces attacked Tajikistan in 1998, killing hundreds of civilians. Government troops crushed the insurgents but suffered heavy casualties.
Others say he is in Afghanistan.
Tajik Internal Affairs Minister Abdurakhim Kakhkhorov said in late July he does not rule out another incursion by Khudoiberdiyev’s fighters. During the first six months of this year, the police detained 12 alleged members of the ex-colonel’s insurgent group, he said.
Earlier this year police disrupted three terrorist plots in Khudzhand by Khudoiberdiyev’s supporters, Kakhkhorov said.
“Tajikistan’s security agencies are on the alert for possible attacks,” Defence Ministry spokesman Fariddu Makhmadaliyev said. “Our military does everything to prevent them. Therefore, ... any attempted attack will be thwarted.”
Gen. (ret.) Abdullo Khabibov said Tajikistan still has many Khudoiberdiyev followers, as proven “by the number of alleged extremists detained.”
What countries are threatened?
If Khudoiberdiyev attempts an incursion, political scientist Izzat Amon said, it might have support from militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which threatens not only Tajikistan but Uzbekistan too.
“Anyway, I am sure Tajik security agencies will suppress (Khudoiberdiyev) easily,” Amon said.
Militants may pose a threat not only to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. but to the region as a whole, Tajik Strategic Research Centre director Sukhrob Sharipov said.
“I think not a single state and not a single politician would want to see a deterioration of the situation in Tajikistan, since that would afflict other countries in the region, too,” Sharipov said. “Anyway, we shouldn’t relax or lose vigilance while that man is alive and has followers; we need to be prepared for anything.”
But he said it’s unlikely Khudoiberdiyev’s supporters would attack now, “since the situation has changed, and so have Tajikistan’s forces, since 1998, when the country was torn by a five-year-long civil war.”
Agencies still watchful
Tajik security agencies, however, do not rule out a boost of Khudoiberdiyev’s underground activity in the republic.
“He has two reasons – or, rather, chances – to do so,” said a State National Security Committee (GKNB) official who gave only his first name, Usmon. “First, 12 of his followers are now on trial in Qurghonteppa, and the case (against them) is rather serious. Those people plotted several terrorist acts in southern Tajikistan.
“Second, an amnesty is pending, and those supporters of Khudoiberdiyev who have served three-quarters of their prison terms qualify for it. It’s hard to say now how many of them will be released, but I think there will be quite a few of them, since several hundred were convicted after the 1998 attack on Tajikistan.”
Tajik secret services will do everything possible to thwart any attempt by insurgents to cross into Tajikistan to engage in subversive activities, the GKNB official said.
If Khudoiberdiyev is in Uzbekistan now, Amon said, “Uzbekistan and Tajikistan bear certain obligations as members of regional and international organisations; besides, official Tashkent has become more concerned about the (Uzbek) domestic situation.”