The mysterious killing of Mirzo Ziyoev, a former opposition commander and cabinet minister, is prompting foreign officials to voice concern about instability in mountainous areas of Tajikistan along the Afghan border. Tajik officials, while attempting to project an image that they remain in control of the security situation, say the rising violence in the South is connected to the return of militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Ziyoev, according to official accounts, was killed July 11 in a gunfight between security agents and members of a narcotics trafficking gang. The official version of Ziyoev's demise was laid out by Deputy Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimov at a news conference.
Rahimov alleged that Ziyoev was a member of a gang involved in an armed attack on a police checkpoint on July 8 in Tavildara, a key transit route linking eastern and western Tajikistan. One official report suggested Ziyoev was trying to take control of the district center. The gang was reportedly led by a long-time Ziyoev acquaintance, Nemat Azizov.
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Saodat Mahbatsho is the pseudonym for a Tajik journalist.