Tajikistan Says Five Killed in ‘Anti-Terror’ Operation in East

Tajikistan’s authoritarian government said that five people had been killed Tuesday in an “anti-terror operation” in a troubled region bordering Afghanistan and China.

The five “members of an organized criminal and terrorist group were neutralized” after “armed resistance”, the state information service said, citing the interior ministry.

The statement said that the operation was carried out on Tuesday morning and that the men resisted calls to surrender.

Tajikistan announced an “anti-terror operation” earlier this month after protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region that it has long struggled to control.

The new casualties bring the official death toll from the operation up to 14, with just one military death, although unofficial accounts suggest a higher figure.

The sudden hostilities in the mountainous region prompted concern from Western governments and Human Rights Watch, which has highlighted a communications blackout imposed on the region.

Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, commonly known by its Soviet-era acronym GBAO, has been a periodic flashpoint since the end of a five-year civil war in Tajikistan in the 1990s.

The government said this month that one of its main opponents in the region, Mamadbokir Mamadbokirov, was killed “as a result of internal clashes of criminal groups,” sparking fears of further escalation.

The violence was the most serious flare-up in the region since 2012, when dozens died during an army operation.