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Tajikistan: Fighting Spreads

By Iskandar Aliyev and Zokhra Meredova

Dushanbe, 5 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Gunmen have attacked a Russian Border guard helicopter base at Dushanbe airport. Reports say last night's attack was apparently mounted by Islamic opposition forces. No casualties were reported.

The United Nations special envoy to Tajikistan, German diplomat Gerd Merrem, yesterday said "the destruction of the country continues." Merrem also expressed grave concern over continued fighting between government and opposition forces in the Garm area about 200 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Merrem blamed each side for the fighting, and said it seriously threatens civilians in the area.

But in a statement provided to RFE/RL's Tajikistan service, U.N. monitors cite use of force, physical assaults and threats against members of their teams by government forces. Teams of monitors have been withdrawn from the Garm region because of concern for their safety.

The U.N. maintains a small observer force to monitor a ceasefire in the Tajikistan conflict. The ceasefire has not been generally honored.