Tajikistan has launched an “anti-terror operation” in a restive region that borders Afghanistan and China and has long been a flashpoint of tensions, police said on Wednesday.
The interior ministry said that “members of an organized criminal group” blocked a highway in the eastern region of Gorno-Badakhshan on the border with Afghanistan “in order to destabilize the social and political situation.”
“Law enforcement agencies have begun an anti-terror operation,” the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency Khovar.
Tajik authorities claimed that the militants had received arms and support from international “terrorist organizations” and foreign mercenaries and accused them of seeking to undermine the country’s constitutional order.
“The organized criminal groups did not comply with the lawful demands of law enforcement officers to hand over their weapons and ammunition and put up armed resistance,” the interior ministry said.
Authorities provided no other details.
Tensions between the government and residents of the nominally autonomous eastern region have simmered ever since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
A linguistically and ethnically distinct region, Gorno-Badakhshan has been home to rebels who opposed government forces during the conflict.