An armor-reinforced Presidential Guard unit under the Guard’s commander, Maj. Gen. Gafar Mirzoev, withdrew on January 18 from the environs of Tursunzade following a clash the preceding day with local "self-defense forces." Residents of that western town continue to man pickets intended to block the troops’ path if they return. The ethnically Uzbek populace supports local control of the town and its aluminum plant — Tajikistan’s industrial flagship — against a takeover by Dushanbe. (Interfax, January 19-20. See Monitor, January 17)
In the northern city of Hojent, administrative center of Leninabad region, non-stop rallies have been in progress since January 16. The participants support the demand of the National Revival Bloc (NRB) and the United Opposition that the NRB be included in government-opposition negotiations and the proposed National Reconciliation Commission (see below) The demonstrators have addressed messages to that effect to Dushanbe, Moscow, and to UN mediator Gerd-Dietrich Merrem. The latter has supported Dushanbe’s and Moscow’s refusal to include the NRB, purportedly because it lacks popular support. But its leader, former prime minister Abdumalik Abdullajonov, won more than 90 percent of the vote in Leninabad region as a candidate in the 1993 presidential election. (Interfax, January 18-20)
Both of those areas in western and northern Tajikistan had previously supported Dushanbe against the opposition, but have since seen their interests ignored by the southern-based government in power in Dushanbe. A special Security Council session chaired by president Imomali Rahmonov yesterday announced an "open fight against clan, regional, and criminal groupings" and resolved to form a joint force of the Defense, Internal Affairs, and Security ministries to "stabilize" the internal situation. (Itar-Tass, January 20)
Tehran Round of Inter-Tajik Talks Ends; Important Questions Left Unresolved.