In the predawn hours of October 16 an unidentified armed group attacked the presidential guard regiment in Dushanbe, killing at least 14 officers and men and wounding at least 20. The battle lasted one and a half hours on the premises of the presidential guard unit, until massive government reinforcements joined in the fighting. The attackers, officially thought to have numbered at most 70 to 80, apparently suffered minimal losses and slipped away from the battle without difficulty, carrying their casualties with them. Government forces are now combing Dushanbe’s southern outskirts, from which they suspect the raid had originated. Opposition leader Saidabdullo Nuri immediately denounced the raid as intended to sabotage the peace agreement and renewed the Opposition’s offer to join forces with the government against any renegade or insubordinate detachments from either side. (Russian agencies, October 16)
In a possibly related development, Rizvon Sodirov’s armed group is holding a number of important hostages, reportedly including two sons of Tajikistan’s government-installed Mufti and two relatives of the presidential guard’s commander, Maj. Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev. Rizvon is offering to exchange the hostages for his brother Bahrom Sodirov, who is being detained in Dushanbe. (Russian agencies, October 13, 16)
The Sodirovs defected from the opposition to the government in 1996, but were left out in the cold after Dushanbe decided to seek a deal with the opposition. The authorities captured Bahrom following a hostage drama last February; but Rizvon has since eluded with apparent ease a highly publicized pursuit operation by government forces, managing even to move from the mountains into the Dushanbe area.
Yesterday and last night, four government soldiers were killed in two ambush attacks in Tursunzade district, situated in western Tajikistan and inhabited mainly by Uzbeks. Long resistant to Dushanbe but also unfriendly to the Opposition, the area harbors several independent armed groups. (Itar-Tass, October 17)
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