The rebel forces were pushed back yesterday from the key Anzob mountain pass, which is situated midway between rebel-held Jujand and Dushanbe and controls the sole highway between the two. Yet the rebels retained the ability to cut the highway, compelling government forces to make time-consuming detours on their way to Hujand. Intense fighting, with hundreds of casualties, continued around Hujand and the rebel-held Chkalov military airport. The government reluctantly accepted yesterday the assistance of armed units of the United Opposition. The latter has a stake in putting down the rebellion because the leader, ex-Colonel Mahmud Hudoberdiev, has in the past resisted the government’s half-hearted attempts to reach accommodation with the United Opposition.
Hudoberdiev’s forces are said to include tanks and artillery. His troops number 2,000 according to the government (double the government’s initial estimate) and 5,000 according to Hudoberdiev (who says that locals are joining his forces as volunteers). The government asserts that the rebels include Uzbeks from Afghanistan who used to belong to Abdul Rashid Dostum’s forces. Hudoberdiev himself started his invasion of Tajikistan from Uzbekistan. However, Tashkent has officially disavowed the rebellion and expressed support for the Tajik government. Russia did so again yesterday in even harsher terms than it had initially.
The government belatedly admitted that it had opened talks, which it said it had broken off with the rebel leader, who acts in the name of a Movement for General Peace in Tajikistan. Hudoberdiev in turn conditions any further talks on being given television and radio airtime, and on a ceasefire for the duration of the talks. He reaffirmed his political platform (details in yesterday’s Monitor), which centers on regional power-sharing and, significantly, omits any anti-Islamic propaganda. The rebel leader continues giving confident interviews to the media from his headquarters (Russian and international agencies, November 5).–VS
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