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Two Days of Clashes Leave 35 Dead in Tajikistan


FILE - Police officers secure an area in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, after armed clashes erupt, Sept. 4, 2015.
FILE - Police officers secure an area in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, after armed clashes erupt, Sept. 4, 2015.

Tajikistan security forces killed 13 militants Saturday, the government said, a day after nine police officers and 13 militants died in fighting blamed on a renegade former deputy defense minister.

Abdukhalim Nazarzoda, dismissed from his post Friday in connection with an unspecified crime, was accused of belonging to the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikstan, which was effectively banned last week for its alleged links to Islamic State terrorists.

The government said Nazarzoda orchestrated Friday's armed attacks, including assaults on two police posts near Dushanbe. Militants also stole large amounts of weapons and ammunition from Defense Ministry storage in Dushanbe, officials said.

Police said security forces pursued the attackers and surrounded them Saturday at a remote mountain area 50 kilometers northeast of the capital. In addition to the 13 militants killed, 32 others were arrested, and more than 500 weapons were recovered, the Defense Ministry said.

Russian news reports late Saturday said Nazarzoda was holed up with the alleged attackers at Romit Gorge.

The violence has stoked fears of new hostilities in the largely Muslim and impoverished Central Asian country, a former Soviet republic that hosts 7,000 Russian troops.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Saturday by phone with his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rakhmon. A spokesman said Putin described the attacks as "an attempt to destabilize the country."

Nazarzoda, 51, had worked in the Defense Ministry since 1999, when anti-government fighters were folded into state institutions after a five-year civil war that ended in 1997.

An estimated 150,000 people died in the conflict.

Some information for this report came from AFP.

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