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Tajikistan Islamist Leader Shot and Killed in Istanbul

Saturday 7 March 2015

(Reuters, AFP) – A Tajik Islamist activist has been shot and killed in Istanbul, according to Turkish media reports. Umarali Kuvvatov was murdered by an unknown gunman on Thursday.

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Umarali Kuvvatov
Tajikistan wanted him for a number of crimes, including extremism, economic crimes and hostage-taking.

Umarali Kuvvatov, who was an outspoken critic of Tajikistan’s veteran President Emomali Rakhmon, was killed by a single shot to the head at on Thursday around 10.30 PM local time in Istanbul’s Fatih district. He was already dead when medics arrived at the scene, Turkish media said, which first reported on the murder on Friday.

News agency Dogan said that Turkey’s anti-terrorism police unit and murder squad were leading the investigation, and said the 47-year-old had been eating dinner at a house in the area prior to the crime.

Kuvvatov, head of the “Group 24” Islamist movement, was living in exile in Turkey after Tajikistan’s Supreme Court declared the movement an extremist organization in October last year. Tajik officials say Kuvvatov was wanted on charges including extremism, economic infringements and hostage-taking, but Turkey had refused to extradite him.

In comments that are sure to exacerbate ever-growing fears of militancy in Central Asia, Russia’s deputy defence minister has warned that militants from the Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan pose a threat to Tajikistan. Anatoly Antonov reminded reporters in Moscow on March 5 that the IS group already had a presence in Afghanistan. Antonov said that the IS militant group posed a threat to Russia’s partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance comprising Russia and five other post-Soviet states, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

In 2012 Kuvvatov went into exile to first Russia and later the United Arab Emirates after Tajikistan asked for his extradition. He was arrested in Dubai in September 2012 at the behest of Tajikistan. He was released in September 2013 after obtaining a pardon. Kuvvatov went to Turkey, where he was arrested on 20 December 2014 on an alleged visa violation. His extradition was once more sought by Tajikistan, for extremism, economic crimes and hostage-taking. Turkey however refused extradition.

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