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Tajikistan: Remaining U.N. Hostages Freed By Gunmen

Obigarm, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Tajik gunmen today freed the last of their hostages. A correspondent at the scene says the two U.N. military observers and three U.N. refugee agency workers were met by Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov in the village of Obigarm. They were then sent on to the capital of Dushanbe, 80 kilometers away.

The release came after several hours of direct talks between the gunmen and Rakhmonov. A sixth hostage, Tajik Security Minister Saidamir Zukhurov, was freed at the start of the talks earlier today.

The crisis began February 4 when a group of gunmen, led by Bakhrom Sadirov, seized an initial group of hostages and demanded the government allow Bakhrom's brother Rizvon and his supporters to join them from neighboring Afghanistan.

The Tajik authorities allowed more than 30 armed fighters to reach Sadirov's base in the mountains east of Dushanbe on Saturday. But Sadirov then reneged on a promise to release all the hostages. Instead the hostages were released in stages.