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Tajik Authorities Say More Killed In Restive Gorno-Badakhshan Region

Tajik authorities say security forces have killed five more men in the restive Gorno-Badakhshan region (GBAO), bringing the official number of residents to die at the hands of law enforcement to 26, although locals say the total is much higher.

In a statement issued on May 31, the Tajik Interior Ministry said its forces “neutralized” armed “terrorists” — five residents of the Rushon district between the ages of 30 and 53.

The statement added that one resident of the district was detained on suspicion of being “a leader of the terrorist group.”

According to the ministry, law enforcement officers found firearms and ammunition belonging to the group hidden at a site close to the Afghan border.

Local residents have told RFE/RL that those killed were not terrorists, but peaceful demonstrators, adding that the number of people killed by police is much higher than officials say, as dozens more killed by police had been buried by their relatives in the volatile region in recent days.

Due to the area’s remote location and the lack of any Internet there, it is impossible to verify an accurate death toll.

Deep tensions between the government and residents of the restive region have simmered ever since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Nonetheless, protests are rare in the tightly controlled nation of 9.5 million where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled for nearly three decades.

The latest protests were initially sparked in mid-May by anger over the lack of an investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional Governor Alisher Mirzonabot and Rizo Nazarzoda, the mayor of Khorugh.

The rallies intensified after one of the protesters, a 29-year-old local resident Zamir Nazrishoev, was killed by police on May 16, prompting authorities to launch what they called an “anti-terrorist operation.”

The escalating violence in the region has sparked a call for restraint from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Western diplomatic missions in Tajikistan, and human rights groups.

Gordo-Badakhshan, a linguistically and ethnically distinct region, has been home to rebels who opposed government forces during the conflict in the 1990s.

While it occupies almost half of the entire country, its population is a mere 250,000. The region is difficult to travel around because of the mountainous terrain, while its economy is wracked by unemployment, difficult living conditions, and high food prices.

Source : RFERL