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Tajik Official Says Militant Activity Not Spreading To South

QURGHON-TEPPA, Tajikistan -- An Interior Ministry official in Tajikistan's southwestern Khatlon Province says reports of armed men coming to this region are untrue, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Khatlon Province Interior Ministry head Shodibek Rajabov said that fighting between Tajik forces and insurgent groups in the nearby Tavil-Dara region has not spread to Khatlon.

Rajabov says the fighting in Tavil-Dara is related to Operation Drug 2009, which he says is an ongoing operation against drug traffickers.

Tajik analyst Suhrob Tavarov agrees that armed groups could only exist in Khatlon Province if they had been successful in Tavil-Dara, and government officials say they have killed several militants and taken more than 100 prisoner.

Analyst Jamoliddin Usmoniyon adds that the militants have always hid in mountainous areas where the army has difficulty reaching them and Khatlon Province is not mountainous.

At the same time, Qalandar Sadriddinzoda, the chief of the Islamic Renaissance Party in Khatlon, claimed that since the start of fighting in Tavil-Dara several weeks ago, all men wearing national or traditionally Muslim clothes or beards are being searched under suspicion of being an insurgent.