Dushanbe, 25 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Tajikistan's Interior Ministry said today that a military operation launched against an armed outlaw group three days ago is nearly over after dozens of people were killed. The ministry said about 40 supporters of former Tajik opposition field commanders Rahmon Sanginov and Mansur Muakkalov were killed and 66 others captured during "Operation Lightning." Government losses were given as seven killed and 20 wounded.
There was no information about the location of Sanginov or Muakkalov.
The government started the operation after Sanginov and Muakkalov's group took a number of people, including five policemen, hostage and tried to exchange them for four of their supporters currently in detention on murder charges.
Sanginov and Muakkalov both fought alongside the United Tajik Opposition, or UTO, during the 1992-1997 Tajik civil war. Other former UTO field commanders, many of whom are now in the Tajik government, are trying to organize a meeting to discuss the situation.