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DUSHANBE -- Three French servicemen have been involved in a fracas at a restaurant in the capital, Dushanbe, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports.

Local media reported that the servicemen left the restaurant after failing to pay their bill on the evening of August 28, and that they beat up the manager when he tried to stop them.

However, the French Embassy in Dushanbe rejected that version of events. Defense Attache Colonel Stephan Samaran told RFE/RL the servicemen had waited for two hours for their main course and had then decided to pay for their salads and drinks and leave.

Samaran said the three had then been attacked by at least 10 restaurant staff, including the manager.

It is the first such incident since January 2002, when Dushanbe airport began hosting some 300 French personnel working with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

The embassy said the military personnel were registered as diplomatic staff, but that they were cooperating with the Tajik Interior Ministry.

On August 30, the three gave statements to investigators in the presence of French diplomats.
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