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DUSHANBE -- Three men have been arrested in Dushanbe in connection with the deadly New Year's Eve stabbing attack of a man dressed as Father Frost, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The victim, 24-year-old economist Parviz Davlatbekov, had dressed up as Father Frost to "please people" as he went out to attend a private New Year's party, Davlatbekov's relatives said.

"He was greeted by passersby, who were happily sharing jokes with him," they said.

However, on his way home, Davlatbekov was confronted by a group of young men, at least one of whom stabbed him with a knife, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmadullo Asadulloev. Davlatbekov later died of his wounds.

"When Davlatbekov was admitted to hospital, police took immediate action and arrested three men in connection with the crime," Asadulloev said.

He said all the suspects are university students in their 20s.

"They stabbed Davlatbekov twice in the stomach for no reason," Asadulloev said.

Police described the three as "hooligans."

Both authorities and the victim's relatives rejected speculation that Davlatbekov was attacked for dressing as Father Frost to attend "un-Islamic" New Year celebrations.

As a legacy of the nation's Soviet past, many Tajiks usher in the New Year with private gatherings and street parties.

President Emomali Rahmon on December 31 congratulated the nation in a televised address scheduled to coincide with the New Year's celebrations.

But many people argue such celebrations do not sit well with Tajik traditions.

The head of the state-backed Islamic Council of Ulema, Said-Mukarram Abdulqodirzoda, recently urged Tajiks not to celebrate New Year's.

"It contradicts both Islamic laws and Tajik traditions," Abdulqodirzoda said. "We have many others -- our own, good celebrations."

Read more in Tajik here

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