Thursday, July 26, 2012 -
The uneasy truce between government forces and armed groups in Tajikistan was extended to Thursday night as authorities offered an amnesty to fighters who surrender voluntarily.
The announcement followed an ultimatum by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon that “criminal groups” lay down their guns and hand over four people suspected of assassinating regional security chief General Abdullo Nazarov on Saturday.
The intensity of fighting was unseen since the five-year civil war in the mid-1990s and left at least 60 soldiers, civilians, and fighters dead in and around Khorog, a city of 30,000 people in the remote southeastern province of Gorno-Badakhshan.
Local authorities are taking advantage of the lull in fighting to discuss with Khorog residents on how to reestablish stability in the city, the independent Tajik news web site Asia-Plus reported.
Clashes began Tuesday when the Tajik government sent thousands of troops, supported by helicopter gunships and armored personnel carriers to the remote, mountainous region close to the border with Afghanistan to catch the killers of Nazarov and reestablish control.
Meanwhile, Tajik nationals in New York staged a demonstration outside UN headquarters on Wednesday in protest against the military operation. Around 30 people participated in the gathering to appeal for international assistance in providing speedy resolution to the conflict. They plan another protest in front of the Tajik Embassy in Washington, DC on Thursday.
The Tajik president has canceled his trip to London where he was to attend the London Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday, Asia-Plus cited an unnamed government source as saying.
Analysts say that Rahmon is determined to gain effective control over Gorno-Badakhshan before the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan or risk losing a large swathe of the country to Islamic militancy.
Updates on Tajik insurgency:
Communication lines are closed to the Gorno-Badakhshan region for the third day in a row.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the involvement of Afghan militants in the conflict
Tajik citizens' access to internet site YouTube has also been suspended.