DUSHANBE, July 13, 2009, Asia-Plus  -- According to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), ex-Minister of Emergencies also former powerful field commander of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) Mirzo Ziyoev was killed on July 11 while trying to reveal the armed group’s hidden weapons and negotiating surrender of the armed group led by Nemat Azizov.  Mirzo Ziyoyev allegedly joined that criminal group and was shot by his new confederates.

Mirzo Ziyoyev was an influential field commander of the UTO.  He was appointed the minister of emergencies in 1999 as part of a power-sharing agreement in 1997, but was dismissed in 2006.

The First Deputy Minister of Interiors, Ramazon Rahimov told a press conference in Dushanbe on July 12 that Mirzo Ziyoev allegedly directly headed the gang led by the member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) Nemat Azizov.  “It has been established that among members of this gang were five Chechens, nationals of the Russian Federation,” the Rahimov, “They arrived in Tajikistan for transporting money, made from sale of narcotics, for financing terrorist organizations active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

As far as Nemat Azizov is concerned, he is resident of the village of Chursoni Bolo in the Darvoz district, he had formerly served as commander of one of two battalions of the Committee for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense (CES) deployed in the Tavildara district.  He was an active member of the UTO and in 1997 he was integrated into the Ministry of Emergency Situations that was headed by Mirzo Ziyoev.

As it had been reported earlier, a group of gunmen attacked a police post “Safedkhok” in the Tavildara district, eastern Tajikistan last Wednesday (July 8) night.  A group of unidentified men tried to push through the check point towards the district center but were pushed back by the police.  Several attackers were injured but managed to escape.  Tajikistan''s interior ministry said it could not immediately comment on the report.

According to Tajik law enforcement authorities, the operation against that illegal armed group was launched on July 9.   The source noted that three gunmen had been killed during the attack on the police post Safedkhok and one another, known as Qiyomiddin, had been wounded.  “He died in two days after the attack,” the source said.

“Later, it became known that that criminal group had been set up by Nemat Azizov, former commander of the CES battalion deployed in Tavildara,” said the source, “It has been established that in early June they killed an officer of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Saghirdasht.  Officers investigating into the murder of the MoD officer found the trace of the criminals, but after the attack on the police post Safedkhok thy escaped and hid in the Childara area.  They sought help from Mirzo Ziyoev and he joined them.”

According to him, they were allegedly going to seize buildings of the district administration and police department in Tavildara.  The government forces began the operation to surround them on July 9 and on July 10, Mirzo Ziyoev and five his confederates surrendered to the government forces, the source said.

The MoI said Ziyoev agreed to reveal the gang''s hidden weapons and negotiate the surrender of its leader.  But a gun battle erupted at the talks, killing Ziyoyev and wounding several officers of the MoI and the State Committee for National Security (GKNB). The other members of the group, including five Chechen nationals, were detained and taken to Dushanbe for questioning.

We will recall that The Rasht Valley, which is a former stronghold of the UTO, had been sealed off since May for what the Tajik law enforcement authorities say is an annual anti-drug operation.  

Meanwhile, some independent experts say the government is fighting armed militant groups that include foreign fighters and this incident follows a string of attacks across Central Asia in past weeks which the authorities have linked to growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Central Asian authorities have blamed the latest surge in violence on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group whose militants have long fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.