The Islamic State group has, one month after the event, claimed responsibility for a prison massacre in Tajikistan that left 32 people dead.
In a statement published June 13 in the group’s Al-Nabaa magazine, Islamic State claimed that its militants killed three murtad (apostates) and three prison staff employees. The bloodshed took place on May 19 at a prison around 15 kilometers outside the capital, Dushanbe.
References to apostates appear to be reserved for jailed members of the banned opposition party Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, who were among the dead.
The statement provides no specific evidence to support suggestions the prison unrest was a planned or premeditated incident.
This claim does, however, chime with the version swiftly issued by the Tajik government, which asserted on the day after the episode that Islamic State militants had executed five fellow prisoners and three prison guards. Neither the government or Islamic State attempt to explain how all the other fatalities occurred.
The Justice Ministry has said that the initial violence was instigated by 20-year-old Behruz Gulmorod — the son of Gulmorod Khalimov, a former Tajik police officer who became high-ranking Islamic State commander.
The authorities rapidly buried most of the bodies without allowing relatives to perform traditional funerary rites or to see the remains. This obfuscatory conduct has led relatives and activists to suspect that there is a more complicated narrative about what happened at Kirpichniy prison than the government — or the Islamic State — are allowing for in their statements.
Prosecutors formalized the nebulousness of the case by conferring “top secret” status to the investigation, Asia-Plus news website reported on June 13. This make divulging any details of the case tantamount to leaking state secrets, with all the legal sanctions that implies.
In another recent development, several employees at the prison, which is in the town of Vahdat, have been dismissed, as has the prosecutor with oversight for law enforcement in the correctional facilities of Dushanbe and its environs. No specific explanation has been given for these personnel changes.