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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs