Police in Tajikistan appeared to blame a banned opposition party for an attack claimed by Islamic State that left four tourists dead and was originally reported as a hit-and-run road accident.
A police statement on Tuesday, July 31 called a detained man identified as leading an attack an “active member” of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which was banned in 2015.
The attack on Sunday killed two tourists from the United States and one each from Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Authorities in the Central Asian country offered no immediate proof of the assertion.
According to the police statement, Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, who police identified as the leader of the group that attacked the tourists, is an “active member” of the IRPT and also “underwent training in Iran,” a country with whom Tajikistan has poor relations.
Police said Abdusamadov also testified that he had traveled four times to Iran, a country with which Tajikistan has poor relations, “where he received an ideological education and underwent military sabotage training.”
The statement made no explicit reference to terrorism but said “the crime was committed with the goal of making an attempt on state and public security [and] destabilizing public order.”
Islamic State on Monday claimed the attack on a group of seven tourists cycling in the Danghara district, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
In a statement, ISIS claimed a “detachment of the soldiers of the Caliphate” had carried out the attack against “citizens of Crusader coalition countries.”
Although the attack was initially reported as a hit-and-run, Tajikistan’s interior minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda said on Monday that the group was armed with “knives and firearms.”
At least one of the three tourists that survived was stabbed and is being treated in hospital, he told a press conference.
According to a police statement released Tuesday at least four people suspected of involvement in the attack were killed by police with a further four suspects detained.
In February, Tajikistan pardoned more than 100 of its nationals following their return from Syria and Iraq, where they had joined radical Islamist groups.
Gulmurod Khalimov, Islamic State’s most high-profile Tajik recruit, served as the chief of the Tajikistan interior ministry’s special forces unit prior to his defection in 2015. Russia’s defence ministry said in September 2017 that Khalimov, who may have been ISIS “minister of war,” was killed in an airstrike. Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda said in February that Tajikistan was still verifying that report.
With reporting from AFP