News / Asia

Increasing Tajikistan Violence Worries Neighbors

TEXT SIZE - +

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.   


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid