Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 158

Tajik authorities have concluded that supporters of the cashiered Colonel Mahmud Hudoberdiev were responsible for the August 27 assassination of Nurullo Hairulloev, head of administration in Tursunzade, and five of his aides. The deadly attack was staged only two days after President Imomali Rahmonov’s visit to the town. These killings follow the assassination of the head of administration of the adjacent Shahr-i Nav district in mid-August in a similar raid.

Tursunzade district, abutting Uzbekistan and populated largely by ethnic Uzbeks, turned increasingly hostile to the Dushanbe government after 1995. Hudoberdiev, himself an ethnic Uzbek with ties to authorities in Uzbekistan, was the commander of the Tajik army’s strongest unit, the rapid-deployment brigade. He led an antigovernment rebellion in Tursunzade district in August 1997, hoping to force Dushanbe to revoke concessions made to the opposition in the peace agreements. Uzbekistan also opposed those concessions, was believed to have supported Hudoberdiev’s rebellion and offered his defeated troops a haven on Uzbek territory.

The Tursunzade aluminum plant is Tajikistan’s chief industrial asset. Rival armed factions in Dushanbe and in western Tajikistan have fought each other for control of the plant, a major source of both foreign exchange and official graft. The opposition has no presence whatsoever in the area. Following last year’s rebellion, the government ousted the pro-Hudoberdiev civilian administration in Tursunzade and installed Dushanbe loyalists.

The Uzbek government yesterday denied reports that the assassination squad staged the raid from Uzbek territory and returned there after the attack. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan’s security services offered to cooperate with those of Tajikistan in investigating the events. (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, August 27 through 30)