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Tajikistan: Rebel Returns To Negotiate In Hostage Crisis

Dushanbe, 10 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Tajik rebel leader returned home to Dushanbe from Afghanistan today to help negotiate the release of 15 hostages held by his fighters.

Tajik presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov told Reuters that the return of Rizvon Sadirov is "a serious advance towards ending the problem of the hostages." But there was no news on the outcome of today's talks, which also include negotiations between Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov and Afghan warlord Ahmed Shah Masood.

Sadirov's brother Bakhrom is holding the hostages, including Tajik security minister Saidamir Zukhurov, in the town of Obirgam, in a mountaineous area some 80 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Saidov said that Rakhmonov today held a telephone conversation with Zukhurov. He said the contact with the kidnapped Zukhurov is evidence of a positive shift in the hostage situation. Saidov said Rakhmonov repeated to Zukhurov his intention to settle the situation by peaceful means.

The rebels are demanding free passage for Rizvon Sadirov and his fighters to return to Tajikistan from Afghanistan. Saidov did not say whether Rizvon had been accompanied by any of his Afghanistan-based fighters when he arrived in Dushanbe for the negotiations.

Rizvon Sadirov and his men are based in Afghan territory controlled by Masood, the military commander of the Afghan government ousted from Kabul in September by the Taliban fundamentalist militia.