The inter-Tajik negotiations on military issues, underway since February 26 in Moscow amid serious but bridgeable differences, were suspended yesterday after the Opposition could no longer keep silent over two blows it received from Dushanbe.
On February 25 the government ceased its operation against the Sodirov brothers’ detachment in Garm, allowing it to pass westward into the opposition-controlled Kofarnihon district closer to Dushanbe. The local Opposition detachment commanded by Kosymjon Ismatov has since sustained considerable casualties in fighting the Sodirovs, who are using weapons and reinforcements received from the government last month in return for releasing their hostages. The disengagement by government forces violates the recent agreement with the Opposition on joint action against "terrorists" and "hostage-takers." This turn of events has reinforced suspicions that Dushanbe has again unleashed the Sodirovs against the Opposition.
On February 24, moreover, government forces arrested six members of Ismatov’s detachment on charges of having assassinated some 40 Russian soldiers in Dushanbe over the last two years on direct orders from top Opposition leaders. The leader of the six was killed "while resisting arrest," whereupon the others "confessed." When notified of the killing and the charges against its leaders, the Opposition finally decided yesterday to publicize all of these developments and to suspend the negotiations in protest. An Opposition representative flew to Dushanbe to seek clarification jointly with UN and Red Cross representatives.
UN mediator Gerd-Dietrich Merrem stated yesterday that the negotiations must resume on March 5 "regardless of the conclusions with which UN and Red Cross representatives would bring with them from Dushanbe" — in effect a dangerous invitation to elements in the government to continue undercutting the negotiations through the use of direct or proxy force. (Interfax, February 27-March 3; Itar-Tass, March 2-3; Ekho Moskvy, February 28; Voice of Free Tajikistan, Radio Dushanbe, February 28)
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