DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Police in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan said on Saturday that they have surrounded the area where a former official accused of plotting an attack on a police station is believed to be hiding.
Nine police officers and 13 militants were killed in Friday's attack mounted by the disaffected deputy defense minister, police said, updating the previously reported death toll of 17.
In contrast with neighboring Afghanistan, the former Soviet Central Asian nation of Tajikistan rarely sees such bloodshed and the unrest is likely to unnerve the government.
It is not yet clear what was behind the attacks, but government statements indicate those involved were actively involved in fighting as part of armed opposition forces during the civil war of the 1990s.
Gen. Abduhalim Nazarzoda, the deputy defense minister accused of plotting the unrest, is believed to have fled 150 kilometers from the capital Dushanbe. Police said Saturday that they have sealed the area and are working on apprehending him.
Efforts to squeeze out the opposition have intensified in recent years, and Nazarzoda and other alleged accomplices in Friday's attacks are being linked with the moderate Islamic Revival Party, which was banned by Justice Ministry decree late last month. The party denied any link to the suspects.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his support for the Tajik government in a telephone conversation with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon on Saturday. He said that he considered Friday's attack "an attempt to destabilize the domestic situation" there, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.
Putin will be traveling to Tajikistan to a regional security conference later this month.