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Tajik President Gives Top Position To Former Rebel Warlord

Dushanbe, March 13 (RFE/RL) - Tajik president Emomili Rakhmonov today signed a decree appointing one of the main leaders of January's armed mutiny against his government as head of a newly formed brigade within the presidential guard.

Itar-tass news agency quoted Rakhmonov's press-secretary, Zafar Saidov, as saying that Army Colonel Makhmoud Khudoberdyev will lead the new fast-reaction brigade and will also act as deputy head of the presidential guard.

Saidov said the decision aims at stabilizing the difficult military and political situation in the country following the crisis at the beginning of this year.

Khudoberdyev and warlord Ibodullo Boimatov led an armed mutiny in January, taking two cities and advancing to within a few kilometers of the capital Dushanbe. Rebel leaders demanded that Rakhmonov dismiss his government, which they accused of being incompetent and corrupt.

To defuse the crisis, Rakhmonov sacked several top officials - including first Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsaid Ubaidullayev - and declared an amnesty for all mutinous soldiers who surrendered their weapons.