Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry has claimed that the country’s security agencies managed to thwart 36 terrorist attacks in 2016 and stopped around 50 people from mounting attacks on government buildings.
Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda provided no details of specific alleged plots at his press conference on January 20, although there have been sporadic reports of would-be attacks. One circulated in the local media involved some kind of strike on residents of the capital, Dushanbe, during the May 9 Victory Day celebrations.
To believe Rahimzoda, the achievements of the Tajik security agencies in combating terrorism are little short of miraculous.
More than 400 people were detained last year in Tajikistan on suspicion of belonging to various terrorist groups, Rahimzoda said. Over the same period, 40 people joined Islamic State, he claimed.
If anything, the minister lamented that, with the odd exception, foreign partners are failing to take sufficient advantage of Tajikistan’s terrorist-busting abilities.
Rahimzoda boasted it was his ministry’s information that led to a terrorist group comprising 11 natives of Central Asia being rounded up in Russia. The alleged militants were purportedly members of the Islamic State group and were planning to blow up buildings in St. Petersburg, according to Russian officials.
Turkey, meanwhile, has paid the price of not paying heed to Tajik intelligence, however, Rahimzoda said. The New Years attack on a nightclub in Istanbul could have been prevented if authorities in Turkey had only paid more heed to their Tajik colleagues, he explained. Tajikistan sent the Turkish authorities 20 official dispatches concerning Islamic State recruiters linked to the alleged perpetrator, an Uzbek national called Abdulkadir Masharipov that Turkish police captured earlier this week, Rahimzoda told reporters.
“We also sent information about people that are accused of links to Masharipov. We gave them information that these people were wanted, that they had committed crimes and are members of terrorist organizations. But unfortunately we received no answer,” the minister said.
In the same briefing, Rahimzoda estimated that there are still around 1,100 Tajik citizens in Syria and Iraq fighting within the ranks of Islamic State. He added that this relatively low number was down to his ministry’s efforts in reaching out to the public.
Rahimzoda said that in 2015, 22 people were forcibly returned to Tajikistan from Syria and Iraq. Another 80 people came back of their own will and were cleared of all criminal charges, he said.
Although the issue would not strictly speaking be under his purview, reporters quizzed the minister about broader issues of national security and asked for an estimate of how many militant fighters are mustered inside Afghanistan along Tajikistan’s southern border.
Somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000, he answered.
Rahimzoda said that numerous Tajik citizens are in Afghanistan operating in terrorist groups, but declined to speculate on exactly how many. He did note, however, that Tajiks are, by his reckoning, underrepresented in Afghanistan-based militant groups when compared to citizens from Tajikistan’s neighbors— presumably a reference to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.