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Suicide Car Bomber Hits Tajik Police Station


Police officers examine the scene after the attack
KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Officials in Tajikistan say two suicide bombers in an explosives-packed car slammed into a police station in the northern city of Khujand, killing two police officers and wounding some 25 others.

It would appear to be the first suicide bombing in the Central Asian country.

Reports said the toll could rise as investigators continued to search the rubble of the building for the bodies of missing officers.

Interior Ministry officials blamed the attack on elements with ties to the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), whose leadership purportedly has links to Al-Qaeda.

Interior Ministry spokesman Muhammadjon Nazriev told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that the vehicle was driven at high speed "into the gated compound of the Sughd regional police organized-crime division -- as the gate was closing after two police cars entered the complex -- and the car exploded."

He said a senior police lieutenant died in hospital as a result of injuries from the blast, and another police officer who tried to stop the car was likely to be the other victim.

Nazriev said the powerful explosion partially destroyed the police compound and that it also damaged several surrounding buildings, including a nearby hospital.

RFE/RL correspondents in Khujand said the area was cordoned off and that law enforcement agencies were not allowing reporters near the compound.

They said police officers briefly detained local reporters who were taking photos, and confiscated their photo and video equipment.

Islamic Movement Blamed

The IMU found sanctuary in Tajikistan during the country's 1992-97 civil war as its leaders had close ties with the country's former Islamic opposition fighters.

In recent years, Tajik officials have blamed the IMU for a number of attacks in the country. They say the banned group was involved in the killings of several police officers in the northern town of Isfara in 2008 and 2009.

Authorities have also held the IMU responsible for the 2006 attack on Kairokum detention center, when attackers killed the head of the prison and set free two suspected members of the Islamic group being held there.

Today's incident comes two weeks after some 25 prisoners, including some with ties to the IMU, staged a dramatic jailbreak in Dushanbe.

A special commission led by Security Council chief Amirqul Azimov has been set up to investigate the Khujand attack, and Azimov himself has been sent to Khujand to oversee the probe.

Khujand is the second-largest city in Tajikistan and the administrative center of Sughd province. The city is located some 350 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe.

written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondents Kamar Ahror and Ma'sum Muhammad Rajab from Khujand and additional wire reporting
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