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Tajikistan: Search Continues For Attackers Of Presidential Guard

Dushanbe, 16 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Search operations are continuing for a group of unknown gunmen who attacked overnight a Tajik presidential guard regiment outside the capital Dushanbe, killing at least 14 soldiers. Authorities say about 80 gunmen attacked the presidential guard barracks early this morning, opening fire from rifles and rocket launchers. The identity of the attackers and possible casualties among them are still unclear.

Zafar Saidov, a spokesman for Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, said the attack was the carried out by opponents of peace in the country. Davlat Usmon, chief of staff of the Islamic opposition, blamed the attack on armed rebel groups.

The government and the opposition signed a peace accord in June. A National reconciliation commission, set under the accord, gave armed rebel groups an ultimatum to declare until mid-November their loyalty to the state.

Meanwhile, a separate report saying that 5,000 Tajik refugees fleeing fighting in Afghanistan had crossed into neighbouring Turkmenistan could not be confirmed today. A senior International Red Cross official has said the refugees were from the Sakhi refugee camp in northern Afghanistan.

Spokesmen for both the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dushanbe and for the Tajik National Reconciliation Commission, set up under inter-Tajik peace accords, told RFE/RL they could not confirm the report. Turkmen officials cited by Reuters also said they had no information of any refugee movement.