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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition 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.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs