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Tajikistan: Opposition Forces Release Hostages

Prague, 4 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Our correspondent in Dushanbe reports that Tajik opposition forces last week released 10 Tajik police officers held hostage in the country's Komsomolobod region. The report says U.N. military observers in Tajikistan mediated the release.

A Tajik opposition group led by Mullo Abdullo captured 35 police officers and their two drivers last Sunday. The drivers were released unconditionally, but the Tajik opposition said it was holding the 35 police officers hostages. The opposition group said it wanted the removal of all government military checkpoints from the Komsomolobod region.

Negotiations on the release started last week. Mullo Abdullo told RFE/RL that the 10 police officers were released following an order of Tajik opposition leader, Abdulloh Nuri. He said the remaining 25 police officers would be released after the checkpoints' removal and the release of four opposition members held in prison by the Tajik government. Tajik government representative Aziz Ruziev told our correspondent that the demand will be considered.

Meanwhile, the press secretary of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov --Zafar Saidov-- told Itar-Tass last week that no date has yet been established for a meeting in Moscow between Rakhmonov and Nuri. Both parties have expressed their agreement in principle to hold such a meeting. Last week Nuri sent a letter to Rakhmonov, renewing demands for the creation of a coalition government and the holding of multi-party elections.

Tajikistan's Moscow-backed government has been fighting Islamic opposition forces since it drove most of its democratic and Islamic foes out of the country in a 1992-93 civil war.