An unknown group carried out an attack on the Tajik border crossing checkpoint “Ishkobod” is located near the border with Uzbekistan. The incident occurred on the night of November 6, Tajikistan’s Constitution Day.
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The authorities insist that this incident is a terrorist attack committed by the followers of the IS terrorist group (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.). There was no response to this from the terrorist group in the media. Some experts question the official position and say that it is too early to draw conclusions without a comprehensive study of the incident. Meanwhile, the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan claims that there is no evidence that the attackers entered Tajikistan from the Afghan territory. The Ministry of Defense announced this to the Afghan service of Radio Liberty on November 7.
Official Narrative of Events
According to the press service of the Border Security Force of the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan, the attack on the border crossing checkpoint No. 4 “Ishkobod”, which is part of the military border unit “Sultonobod” occurred at 03:23 on November 6.
According to the source, at that time, an armed group of 20 people attacked the border post and seized five firearms. After the operation of the Tajik security forces, 15 attackers were killed and five others were detained.
“During this armed clash, one border guard and one officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were killed,” the source noted.
The statement of the Tajik Border Service did not include the names of the victims.
According to local media messages, a local police officer from Esanboy jamoat of the Rudaki district, Bahrom Kosimzoda, died in the clash. The deceased was buried in his homeland on November 6. The killed border guard Izzatullo Latipov was Dushanbe resident. According to his relatives, Latipov, after completing military service, started his contract service in the rank of warrant officer.
The Interior Ministry of Tajikistan added that four attackers fled to Esanboy village after the attack, where they were detained. The Border Service reported five attackers were detained.
The Border Service: Members of the Group Belong to the IS Terrorist Organization
Nine hours after the attack, the press center of the Tajik Border Service reported that the attackers of the Ishkobod border post belong to the IS terrorist group (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.). According to the press center, at night of November 3, under cover of darkness, these people crossed the border from Qalai Zoli ulusvoli (district) of Afghanistan to Qabodiyon district of Tajikistan.
“They chose the Ishkobod border post as a suitable place and broke out an armed clash,” the Border Service’s statement says.
Meanwhile, IS terrorist group (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.) still did not state it was involved in the attack on the border post.
General Nazarov: “A Gross Mistake Occurred”
CABAR.asia sources drew attention to the fact that, according to the Border Service’s statement, members of the group illegally crossed the state border and spent two days in Tajikistan. In their opinion, border protection should be strengthened; otherwise, more incidents that are even more dangerous may occur.
General Nuralisho Nazarov, a former deputy commander of the Tajik border troops, questions how a group of 20 people managed to enter Tajikistan illegally and stay unnoticed for two days.
“Someone made a gross mistake. Otherwise, it is impossible to imagine how 20 people could cross the border and even reach Rudaki district. If there is no strict control [in future], groups will enter the country and other incidents are possible,” Nazarov said in CABAR.asia interview.
While the President Is in Europe
The attack on the border crossing checkpoint occurred during the days of the President Emomali Rahmon’s visit to Switzerland. The visit started on November 4 and will last until November 12. After the incident was reported, some experts connected these two events and suggested that the authorities would accuse the leaders of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan of Tajikistan (IRP) of organizing the attack. According to them, President Rahmon will use this incident at meetings in Europe to accuse the IRP of organizing terrorist attacks. However, this did not happen and the authorities accused the terrorist organization IS (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.) of organizing the terrorist attack.
Tajik expert Kosim Bekmuhammad believes that these two events overlapped by chance.
“Tajik law enforcement agencies are able to fulfill their tasks even during the President’s absence,” the expert noted.
Immediately after reporting the attack, it was suggested on social networks that its organizers sought to complicate relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Otherwise, according to commentators, the terrorists could attack any other post on the border with Afghanistan and, if necessary, return to a neighboring country.
Bekmuhammad did not exclude the possibility of this motive.
“However, the results of this attack are too insignificant to create problems in relations between Tashkent and Dushanbe,” Bekmuhammad believes.
According to him, the IS terrorist organization (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.) is a global geopolitical project; he believes that relations between Central Asian countries are not so important for such terrorist group.
“Therefore, I do not think that the relations between the existing political regimes in Central Asia or other similar issues are of great importance for the IS (banned in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries – Ed.). The achievement of global geopolitical tasks is more important for this terrorist group,” Bekmuhammad believes.
Questions Without Answers
Despite statements by Tajik Border Service, a number of serious issues remain unresolved in this incident.
Who participated in the attack? How did they manage to travel a distance of about 200 kilometers cover from Qabodiyon to Rudaki district unnoticed?
Authorities refrain from commenting on all of these questions.
Meanwhile, the American newspaper The New York Times, citing Umarjon Emomali, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reported, “There is a possibility that the attackers were Tajik citizens”.
There are also reports that there were five women among the attackers. At least one of the photographs posted on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs shows that one of the killed attackers was a woman.
The photos were posted on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the morning of November 6, but in the afternoon, they were deleted for unknown reasons.
Tajik expert Muzaffar Olimov says the circumstances of the incident raise many questions.
“If they was a truly strong force, how could it happen that out of 20 people, 15 were killed immediately during a clash? That is, they were not professionals, their level of training was very low,” Olimov said.
He also drew attention to the fact that members of the group traveled dozens of kilometers through Tajik territory unnoticed.
This article was prepared under IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia via Open Dialogue”.