The war in Dagestan and the northern Caucasus has its echo in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. Islamic militants apparently based in Tajikistan, in an area once controlled by the recently disarmed United Tajik Opposition, have crossed into Kyrgyzstan and taken mountain villages and valleys. The insurgents hold four Japanese geologists and perhaps eighty other hostages, including a Kyrgyz general.

Two communications from the rebels to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, state that the insurgents are waging a holy war against Uzbekistan only and demand from Kyrgyzstan nothing more than safe passage through the Ferghana valley and across the border-in exchange for which the hostages would be released. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, appealing for Russian aid, called the conflicts in Kyrgyzstan and Dagestan part of a single Islamic-terrorist conspiracy. Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, who has taken a more pro-Western stance on security issues, also dwelled last week on the international nature of the guerrilla force but called for a coordinated Central Asian response, with no mention of Russia. In a further complication, Tokyo has sent a special hostage-release team of over thirty officials to Kyrgyzstan, supplemented by personnel from Japan’s Moscow embassy and other specialists who were in Tajikistan.