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Islamic State Poses Threat To Tajikistan

Monday 9 March 2015

MOSCOW (TASS) – The Russian Defence Ministry is concerned over the situation on the southern borders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, as it has identified the emergence of the first groups of Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told a news conference at TASS on Thursday.

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Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov

“We are alarmed over the situation on the CSTO’s southern borders. We are aware of what is happening in Afghanistan. We know that the first groups of the Islamic State militants have appeared in the region”, he said.

The main threat posed by the militants is to Tajikistan, Antonov explained: “We can see very well they are beginning to put pressures on the southern borders of our allies, the CSTO member-states in the first place. It is Tajikistan that I have in mind above all. For our part we have been taking measures to reinforce Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.”

The Russian deputy defence minister’s remarks also come in the wake of reports by Afghan officials that Russian-speaking Central Asians were among dozens of militants killed in southern Afghanistan on March 4. Many of those killed, including a female militant, were reportedly Kyrgyz. Police officials in Zabul Province, however, said that most of the militants killed were Kazakh.

Reports that the IS group has gained a toehold in Afghanistan emerged earlier this year. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 10 that “Islamic State or those people who call themselves Islamic State are active in some areas and our intelligence reports confirm it.”

Soon after its independence, Tajikistan faced a bloody civil war. Between 20,000 and 60,000 people were killed in the first year of fighting when the war was at its peak, with most commentators judging that about 50,000 lives were lost between May and December 1992. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 600,000 people – about one-tenth of the population – were internally displaced and at least 80,000 sought refuge outside the country, mostly in Afghanistan. The brutality of fighting in rural areas in the south shocked Tajikistanis and foreign observers. Many unarmed civilians were murdered, apparently in an effort to force them to flee their homes. A peace process, led by the UN and with considerable participation from foreign countries, resulted in a political and military settlement centred on a power-sharing formula codified in the June 1997 General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan.

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