Armed groups loosely affiliated with Tajikistan’s political opposition entered Dushanbe from the east on January 8 and, yesterday, pressured the government into releasing three opposition fighters. Government forces had arrested the three in Dushanbe on January 7. The opposition detachments, based in the capital’s eastern outskirts and in Kofarnikhon district some 20 kilometers to the east, responded the next day by seizing several officials in Dushanbe as hostages, demanding an exchange, and sending a column of at least 500 fighters to parade down a Dushanbe avenue. The government accepted the exchange although declining to label it as such.
The arrested fighters and part of the force that helped gain their release belonged to commander Rahmon Sanginov. During the confrontation, United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Saidabdullo Nuri and opposition chief of staff Dovlat Usmon supported the armed detachments’ demands. However, Nuri and Usmon warned Sanginov’s and the other groups to register promptly with the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) or else forfeit recognition by the UTO and risk being forcibly disarmed. (Russian agencies, January 9-11)
Sanginov’s and other opposition detachments have for almost two years operated astride the eastern approaches to the capital, despite efforts by government forces to dislodge them. Sanginov’s own relations with the political leadership of the opposition are uncertain; he has at times seemed to operate autonomously. The government for its part appeared anxious to settle the confrontation quietly in order to avoid disruption of the political negotiations with the opposition in the framework of the NRC. There are indications that government hard-liners may have provoked the incident. Just a few days earlier the Presidential Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev, had called for the withdrawal of all opposition fighters from Dushanbe, despite government-opposition agreements that authorize the stay of a limited number of fighters in the capital.
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