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Search Launched For Tajik Militant Leader

A poster of the militant leader Abdullo Rahimov (Mullo Abdullo) in the Tajik capital Dushanbe

A poster of the militant leader Abdullo Rahimov (Mullo Abdullo) in the Tajik capital Dushanbe

DUSHANBE -- Tajik special forces today launched a search in a village some 135 kilometers east of Dushanbe for militant leader Abdullo Rahimov (aka Mullo Abdullo), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Authorities say Mullo Abdullo and his followers were behind the September attack on Tajik army forces in Kamarob Gorge in the eastern Rasht district in which at least 26 servicemen died.

Witnesses told RFE/RL combat helicopters have been deployed in today's search operation in the village of Samsoliq in Nurobod district. Associates of former opposition commander Mirzokhuja Ahmadov are also participating.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmadullo Asadulloev confirmed that "special units are undergoing tactical training there" but did not give further details.

In recent months, officials have said several times that the operation in the Rasht valley was over, but then admitted it is continuing.

In January, one of the suspected attackers, Mullo Abdullo's associate Alovuddin Davlatov (nicknamed Ali Bedaki), and seven of his armed followers were killed in a controversial operation by government forces in the village of Runob, but Mullo Abdullo who is believed to be Al-Qaeda's man in Tajikistan, was not found.

Mullo Abdullo never accepted the peace agreement of 1997 that ended Tajikistan's civil war.

Two other former opposition commanders, Shoh Iskandarov and Mirzokhuja Ahmadov, helped government forces during the operation in the Rasht valley.

The Interior Ministry announced earlier this week that Iskandarov, who has the military rank of colonel, has been appointed deputy head of the Interior Ministry office in Rasht in acknowledgement of his role in the operation.