The Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, released by the U.S. Department of State in November 2018, says that an unprecedented attack that occurred in July 2018 left four Western tourists dead, including two Americans, underscored the threat posed by ISIS in Tajikistan and the importance of counterterrorism efforts, as well as initiatives to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization.  The majority of Tajik domestic counterterrorism activities conducted in 2018 reportedly targeted organizations and individuals allegedly linked to Islamist terrorism in Tajikistan, but the government also arrested terrorist suspects returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, and Syria.


Terrorist Incidents reported in 2018

On July 29, five men attacked a group of seven Western cyclists on a rural highway outside Danghara, southeast of Dushanbe, killing four people, including two Americans.  Assailants ran several cyclists off the road and then attacked them with knives.  Police shot and killed four of the attackers, and the lone survivor was sentenced to life in prison on November 21.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and the assailants pledged loyalty to ISIS in an online video.  The government, however, believed that the opposition political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), was responsible for the attack.

On August 26, assailants killed two Tajik forestry workers and wounded one other in the Farkhor district, near the Tajik-Afghan border.  Details surrounding the incident are unclear. Both the Tajik and Afghan media reported a retaliatory airstrike against militants on the Afghan side by the Tajik, or possibly the Russian military; however, both Dushanbe and Moscow officially refuted this claim.

On November 4, Tajik officials reportedly arrested 12 suspects planning to set off a bomb at the Russian 201st motorized rifle division headquarters in Dushanbe, allegedly under instructions from ISIS.

On November 7, a bloody prison riot in the northern city of Khujand left dozens of individuals, including several prison guards, killed or injured.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the riot.


Tajiks joining ISIS ranks

Tajik authorities reported that an estimated 1,900 Tajik citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS since 2015.  The Interior Ministry reported that 163 foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) have returned to Tajikistan.  According to the Prosecutor General, more than 450 Tajik citizens remained imprisoned in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan for participating in terrorist groups’ combat operations, and another 470 Tajik fighters were killed.  The government viewed northern Afghanistan as the primary potential source of terrorist activity, and continued to take steps to strengthen its border-defense capabilities.  


Legislation, law enforcement and border security

The report says that the Tajik Parliament on June 13 adopted amendments to Article 179 of the criminal code that empower law enforcement agencies to track which websites people visit, including social media pages.  Based on this amendment, the government can prosecute anyone for hitting “like” or “share” under a social media post that espouses “extremism” or terrorism.  Critics argued that this law gives the government indefinite latitude in determining what constitutes “extremism,” noting that the Tajik government continues to unilaterally designate political opposition groups such as the IRPT, or religious affiliations, such as Salafi Muslims, as terrorist groups.


Countering the financing of terrorism

Tajikistan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a FATF-style regional body. Tajikistan’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Financial Monitoring Department (FMD) at the National Bank of Tajikistan, is a member of the Egmont Group.  The National Bank of Tajikistan is currently working to improve Tajikistan’s image with the FATF and the EAG.  FMD’s website contains a list of individuals and entities involved in terrorism, including those sanctioned under relevant UNSCRs.  In November 2018, the EAG approved a mutual evaluation report of Tajikistan to evaluate its compliance with and effectiveness toward meeting FATF standards.