Tajikistan authorities made the first comments on a recent prison riot in the Tajik northern city of Khujand on November 22.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Brussels, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said yesterday that twenty-one rioters were “neutralized” during the confrontation, according to the Central Asia News Service.

Two inmates were killed while trying to help prison guards, Tajik top diplomat added. 

Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said the rioters attacked prison guards, killing two officers and seriously wounding five others.  

Describing the violence in the penitentiary, which largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism, extremism, and other serious crimes, Sirojiddin Muhriddin said the rioters attacked prison guards, killing two officers and seriously wounding five others.

“The officers attempted to enter negotiations with them, [but] rioters continued confronting [them] while attempting to escape the facility,” Tajik minister said.

Mostly inmates convicted of terrorism, including supporters of the Islamic State (IS) terror group, participated in the riot, Muhriddin noted.  

According to him, twelve of the killed rioters were serving their terms for fighting alongside militants of the Islamic State (IS) terror group in Syria and Iraq, three others were members of the extremist groups of Jamaat Ansarullah, Jundullah and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and six others were serving their terms for serious crimes such as murder and large scale drug trafficking.  

Sirojiddin Muhriddin noted that a special group comprising representatives of the Prosecutor-General’s Office is investigating the riot.  

He said the Tajik government will make an official statement about the violence “when an ongoing probe is completed.”

Tajik foreign minister made the comments at a press conference after the EU-Tajikistan Cooperation Council meeting chaired by Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency.

More than two weeks after the violence, the Tajik authorities have issued no public statements on the incident.   

Recall, the riot broke out at a high-security penal colony 3/3 in the northern city of Khujand late on November 7.  According to some sources, several inmates convicted of religious extremism and terrorism organized the riot at the Khujand high-security penal colony.  They were reportedly armed with cold steels and one of them managed to disarm a guard, took his assault rifle and began shooting at guards and wardens. 

It is not clear what sparked the riot that was suppressed by riot police sent to the prison.

Amaq news agency, which is linked to the IS terror group, reported on November 8 that one of IS fighters “is responsible for the attack in Tajikistan that sparked a prison riot.” 

According to some media outlets, the prison riot left at least 47 prisoners people killed and some 200 others wounded.    

Seven prison officers, including the prison warden and a department chief, have reportedly been arrested in recent days.

Tajik authorities have not publicly confirmed the arrests.

On November 20, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Kevin Covert held talks with Tajik officials “to learn about the steps the Tajik government has taken to investigate alleged violations and to insist that the rule of law be upheld.”  Mr. Covert wrote on Facebook on November 19 that "it is important for the [Tajik] government to conduct a thorough investigation, follow the rule of law, and protect the human rights of prisoners and their families."