In a three-day battle, Tajik insurgents have repulsed a government OMON battalion’s attempt to retake the central town of Garm, and have managed to trap that OMON unit, Dushanbe military officials acknowledged yesterday. The insurgents are offering to allow the battalion to hand over its arms and withdraw from the region. They have also offered to release, via neighboring Kyrgyzstan, a group of 118 Tajik army troops taken prisoner when some 200 opposition fighters captured Garm on December 1. The well-known field commander Mahmadruzi Iskandarov emerged unscathed from that battle, contrary to initial reports of his death. The victor-to-prisoner ratio in this battle again illustrates the disaffection of the conscript troops — and by implication the population — with the Dushanbe authorities.
United Tajik Opposition leaders warned that they would order guerrilla attacks against Tajik and Russian troops on the eastern approaches to Dushanbe, if Russian-backed government forces resume attempts to recapture Garm. The UN mission, which reported that warning yesterday, also announced that it is withdrawing its military observers from the Garm area for safety reasons. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, Western agencies, Voice of Free Tajikistan, December 3-4) While that reasoning may well be valid, the observers’ withdrawal will permit the UN mission to continue disclaiming knowledge of Russian aviation’s involvement in the combat.
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