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Tajikistan: Government Says Troops Have Trapped Rebels

Dushanbe, 6 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Tajik government troops have reportedly trapped some 300 rebel fighters in a northern town as fighting in the troubled country entered its third day. Tajikistan's presidential press service said the group, commanded by ex-colonel Sergei Zvorygin, was under massive artillery fire in Aini, 170 kilometers north of the capital Dushanbe. Tajik fighter planes were also reported bombing scattered rebel groups at the nearby Shakhristan pass.

Our correspondent says about 1,000 soldiers of the United Tajik Opposition, which signed a 1997 peace accord that formally ended more than four years of civil war, are aiding regular government forces.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov said today that government troops had taken control of the northern city of Khudjand and nearby Chkalovsk, which had been overrun by forces loyal to Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev on Wednesday.

There were reports that the rebels were holed up in Khudjand's old city fortress, holding some 90 civilians hostage and threatening to shoot them if attacked.

Rakhmonov said about 100 rebels had been killed in the three days of fighting. He made no mention of government losses.

Rakhmonov said Khudoiberdiyev's threat yesterday to blow up a dam in Kayrakkum and flood large areas of Central Asia was impossible to carry out. He said all the rebels would be killed or captured and brought to trial.