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Tajik police killed 13 rebels

Police in Tajikistan said on Saturday they had killed 13 rebels and had closed in on a sacked deputy defense minister accused of leading gun attacks around the capital Dushanbe which left nine police officers dead.
Following Friday’s attacks, security forces in the Central Asia nation pursued the insurgents, led by renegade general Abdulkhalim Mirzo Nazarzod, to a gorge some 150 km (95 miles) from the city.
“The territory has been completely surrounded, the operation to apprehend and neutralize the criminals is under way,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The outbreak of violence has raised fears of a return to unrest in Tajikistan, an impoverished Muslim nation still volatile after a 1992-97 civil war.
Police denied media reports that 33 servicemen were killed in Friday morning’s clashes in Dushanbe and the adjacent city of Vahdat. Nazarzod was dismissed later on Friday by Imomali Rakhmon, the president, for “committing a crime”.
The Interior Ministry said the army and special forces were involved in the operation in Ramit Gorge, in which 32 insurgents were arrested.
Nazarzod is a member of the opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan. A former opposition militiaman, he was brought into the Tajik armed forces under a 1997 peace deal.
The violence prompted the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe to shut. A statement on its website said armed gunmen had clashed with Tajik police early on Friday in the city and that the incidents “may be precursors to other acts of violence.”
Rakhmon, a former head of a Soviet state farm who tolerates little dissent, has put pressure on the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan. He is a close ally of Moscow and used Russian support during the civil war.
Russia says it is concerned with the security situation in Central Asia following the withdrawal of NATO troops from adjacent Afghanistan. Risks of a spillover from Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have added to fears of unrest.
Critics of the authorities say measures to stamp out militant Islam risk provoking a backlash.

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