News / Asia

Increasing Tajikistan Violence Worries Neighbors

James Brooke

A deadly ambush in a remote Tajikistan valley in Central Asia is sending shock waves all the way to Moscow.  

Helicopter gun ships thundered up valleys of the Pamir mountains looking for Islamic guerrillas who ambushed a military convoy, killing 25 soldiers and wounding another 20.  But this military search and destroy operation was not in Afghanistan, it was in its normally quiet northern neighbor, Tajikistan.

Observers worry that Afghanistan's deadly mix of Islamic fundamentalism and drug trading is spilling into Tajikistan, the poorest of the five Central Asian nations that once were Soviet republics.

Professor Kevin Jones has traveled extensively through Tajikistan:

"These are still incredibly porous borders, and there are numerous places where it is quite easy for groups, organizations, individuals, to cross," said Kevin Jones. "So the ability to move from northern Afghanistan to parts of eastern Tajikistan, to parts of southern Tajikistan is quite easy."

India, Russia and the United States have large military aid missions in Tajikistan, a mountainous nation of seven-million people long seen as a quiet backwater compared to Afghanistan.  But Tajikistan has seen its most violent month of terrorism since a civil war ended in 1997.

On August 22, 25 militants linked to al-Qaida killed six prison guards and broke out of jail in Dushanbe, the capital.  With the violence taking place down the street from the presidential palace, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon reacted by purging the entire leadership of his security forces.

Within days, a suicide bomber killed two policemen and wounded 25 at a police station in Northern Tajikistan and a bomb in a Dushanbe night club, wounded six patrons.

Behind the attacks appears to be a loose coalition of old commanders from Tajikstan's civil war - and a new generation.  

International Crisis Group Central Asia analyst Paul Quinn Judge watches from neighboring Kyrgyzstan .

"There is a new generation of Islamists," said Paul Quinn Judge. "People who do not see that the state is offering them any role in life in Tajikistan, and who are looking at what is happening in Afghanistan, and I suspect in the North Caucasus, and seeing that as the real model for them."

For Russia, the former colonial power, the mix of poverty and fundamentalism is seen as increasingly dangerous.

Since Tajikistan became independent almost 20 years ago, the Russian population has dropped by 90 percent, Russian has been dropped as an official language, the construction of mosques has boomed, and the use of sharia, or religious law, has spread.  Saudi money in Dushanbe is financing construction of the largest mosque in Central Asia.  

Russian observers warn the total "Islamization of Tajik society" will have echoes in Russia, home to one million Tajik migrant workers.  

The head of research at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy, Yevgeny Bazhanov, warns Islamic radicalism could spread through Central Asia into Russia.

"If they prevail in Tajikistan and other areas, those countries are our close neighbors," said Yevgeny Bazhanov. "There are a lot of Russians, ethnic Russians, living  there.  We have huge economic interests there.  We have security interests there.  Not only because they are close the Russian borders, and we to have trade with those countries, trade with China through that countries, we have trade with India.  But it is a security challenge, because some of those groups have clear religious purpose to spread extreme religious Islam from Central Asia to various parts of Russia."

In a view increasingly voiced in Moscow, this top-ranking Russian diplomat said Russia, the United States, and China should work together to prevent Islamic extremism from spreading north from Afghanistan.   

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More