Qatar Secures Release Of Taliban-Held Tajikistani Border Guards
Qatar has brokered the release of four Tajikistani border guards who had been held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan since December.
The news came from the Qatari foreign ministry on June 14, but thus far the border guards haven't appeared in Tajikistan, nor has the Tajikistan government commented.
“Under the directives of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatari mediation succeeded in the release of four soldiers from Tajikstan who were captured by Taliban in December on the Northern borders of Afghanistan,” the Qatari statement said. “Qatar is using all its resources and diplomacy to save lives."
The four guards were kidnapped while gathering firewood on the border with Afghanistan; their commanding officer was later sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for ordering the men to gather the firewood.
Within days after the kidnapping the Tajikistan government said that they knew where the four were being held and that they would be released imminently, but since then little information has come out.
The intriguing element of the reported release is the Qatari angle. It's not known what Qatar did to secure the guards' release, but the Taliban regularly kidnap foreigners for exorbitant ransoms.
What does Qatar get for helping out Tajikistan like this? There has been a remarkable amount of Qatar-Tajikistan economic cooperation in the last few years; Qatar paid $70 million to build the largest mosque in Central Asia and also built the luxury housing development Diar Dushanbe, the first such project in which the Tajikistan government allowed foreign ownership. Just last week, Qatar's minister of energy and industry, Mohammed Saleh Al-Sada, visited Dushanbe to discuss opening a commercial bank.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.