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