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Tajik Families Defect To Afghanistan To Live In 'Islamic Country'

DUSHANBE -- Two Tajik families illegally entered Afghanistan earlier this month because they said they wanted to live in an Islamic country, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The 12 Tajik citizens were detained by Afghan police after crossing the border.

Afghan investigators told RFE/RL that the Tajiks said they are not followers of any political group or religious movement but simply wanted to live in a "Muslim country."

Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazri confirmed the report and said Afghan authorities are interrogating the defectors.

Meanwhile, local media in Tajikistan report that two Tajik border guards were officially charged with assisting the families to illegally cross the Pyandj River that divides Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Tajikistan is a Muslim country, but the government has taken several steps to secularize society. It frequently cracks down on fervent Islamic believers.