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Muslim Leader Slain In Tajikistan


Dushanbe, Tajikistan Jan. 22 (RFE/RL) - The administration of Tajik president Emomili Rakhmonov today denounced the murder of the country's Muslim leader, Mufti Fatkhullo Sharifzoda, and four of his family members.

Itar-Tass quoted presidential press-secretary Zafar Saidov as saying the murders were an "enormous sin" which had no precedent.

Reports quoting police authorities say unknown gunmen entered the Mufti's home in a suburb of Dushanbe last night and shot dead the 53-year-old spiritual leader, his wife, 29-year-old son, his daughter-in-law and a religious student.

The murders occurred on the first day of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Presidential press secretary Saidov said this made the crime particularly evil and cynical.

Sharifzoda had been Tajikistan's Mufti - the highest religious position in the country - since December 1992. He was appointed after supporting the country's Moscow-backed government, when it won a major military victory against a coalition of Islamic and democratic forces. Defeated by Rakhmonov's forces, the opposition fled to neighboring Afghanistan, but its fighters have continued to wage war against the Dushanbe government. Peace talks have gone on for two years, but have so far brought few results.

Meanwhile, a top Tajik opposition leader also is condemning the murder of Mufti Fatkhullo Sharifzoda. Akbar Turajonzode, the head of the opposition delegation to the Ashgabat peace talks on the Tajikistan conflict today told RFE/RL by telephone from Teheran that the opposition strongly condemns the murder of Mufti Sharifzode. Noting that the opposition had never had hostile relations with Sharifzode, opposition leader Turajonzode said that what he called a "terrorist act" coincides with the opposition's decision yesterday to resume talks in Ashgabat on Jan. 29.

Turajonzode welcomed what he called the "clear language" of the presidents of Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and others at last week's CIS Summit in Moscow, calling on Dushanbe to find a negotiated settlement to the Tajikistan conflict. The CIS heads of state decided to extend the mission of the Russian-led, CIS peace-keeping mission in Tajikistan.
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