The Tajik government was reportedly getting the upper hand against rebel forces who last week invaded the northwestern part of the country from neighboring Uzbekistan. NTV Television reported that Saturday (November 7) that government forces had retaken the towns of Hujand, capital of Tajikistan’s Leninabad region, and Chkalov, after heavy street fighting. It also reported that opposition forces under field commander Mirzo Zio had sent troops to help the government retake the city center in the town of Aini. According to the Itar-Tass news agency, seventy among government troops and civilians died during the fighting in Hujand and Chkalov. Russian news agencies reported the rebels were fleeing toward the Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders.

The rebel forces, estimated at 2000 fighters with tanks and artillery, were led by Mahmud Hudoberdiev, an ethnic Uzbek and former colonel in the Tajik army who previously led two rebellions aimed at derailing a compromise between the government and the Islamic opposition. Hudoberdiev and his men were eventually forced to take refuge in Uzbekistan.

Tajik state radio claimed that there was foreign involvement in the uprising, the organizers of which, it said, “are from a wide system, very organized and armed against the territorial integrity of Tajikistan and the unity of its people.” It mentioned, not surprisingly, Uzbekistan, but also thought it was worth mentioning that the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe, the capital, had stopped its activities last month “for fabricated and false reasons,” and that Switzerland had removed its nationals two months ago.