Four close relatives of the riot police commander that left Tajikistan to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East have been killed in an apparent confrontation with government forces.
Authorities said that two of Gulmorod Khalimov’s brothers and two nephews were shot dead overnight on July 4 in the Vose district in the southern Khatlon province. A senior police officer, Anvar Huseinov, was hospitalized with chest stab wounds.
Beyond the official statements, media reports have drawn a dramatic but impossible to verify sequence of events. Weekly newspaper Payk said on its website that several of Khalimov’s relatives had been planning that same night to flee from their village, Ibrati, across the border with Afghanistan, some 30 kilometers away. The group was apparently being led by Khalimov’s brother, Sulton.
Meanwhile, RFE/RL’s Tajik service were provided a different account by Khalimov’s father, Abdusalim, who said that his sons were on their way to a job in the Hissar district.
“They had been without work for a long time. Yesterday they said that they had found a job in Hissar and that they would soon return. But they have not called back since,” he said.
A large number of Khalimov’s relatives live in the Vose district and many of them are suspected by the authorities of having links or sympathies to radical Islamic groups.
When asked by a EurasiaNet.org correspondent in late 2015 how he assessed his brother's actions, Sulton Khalimov stated only that he "did as was dictated to him by the Koran." He said, however, that he had not been in touch with his brother and that he missed and loved him a great deal.
The Interior Ministry is not confirming the details of the clash on the record.
The net has been growing ever tighter around Khalimov’s family. In May, one of his nephews was detained in Russia on charges of allegedly recruiting Tajik youths to join forces with Khalimov in Iraq, where he was last known to have been based. The nephew reportedly had radical Islamist propaganda on his cellphone and the browsing history on the device purportedly suggested he intended to travel to Syria via Turkey. He was deported to Tajikistan, according to some reports.
Although these details appear highly incriminating, neither the Russian nor the Tajik government have proven reliable sources of information in the past and in the absence of a transparent investigative process it is impossible to tell where the truth begins and ends.
Khalimov’s 18-year old son, Behzur, has likewise been arrested on charges of planning unspecified violent crimes. Investigators in Tajikistan claim that they determined that Behzur had been in touch with associates of his father via social media and that he planned to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State.
In April, the Times of London cited military sources in Iraq as saying that Khalimov, who received US training while still a commander in Tajikistan’s riot police, had been killed by a missile strike on the city of Mosul. That has not since been confirmed beyond doubt.
Last year, the US, which has been sorely embarrassed by defection of a man it once trained to a terrorist group, placed a $3 million bounty on Khalimov.