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Tajik Ministers Assure Ex-Opposition Commanders Of Safety

GAHARM, Tajikistan -- A delegation from Tajikistan's power ministries has told former opposition commanders that a military operation in the eastern part of the country is not aimed at them but at a rebel commander and his supporters, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahhorov, Defense Minister Sherali Khayrulloev, and State Committee for National Security deputy head Mansurjon Umarov met today in the eastern Rasht district with former opposition commanders Mirzokhuja Ahmadov and Shoh Iskandarov.

After the five-hour meeting, participants said they assured Ahmadov and Iskandarov of their safety and told them that the government had sent forces to the district only to detain commander Mullo Abdullo (Abdullo Rahimov) and his supporters, RFE/RL reports.

A source told RFE/RL that the government delegation asked Ahmadov and Iskandarov to help them in detain Mullo Abdullo, who is their former colleague.

Ahmadov, Iskandarov, and Mullo Abdullo were commanders in the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) that fought in the 1992-97 Tajik civil war against the administration of President Emomali Rahmon.

After signing a peace agreement with the Tajik government, Ahmadov and Iskandarov were promoted to high-level positions in the Interior and Defense ministries, but Mullo Abdullo was not given a government post and began fighting against government forces.

A Tajik court found Mullo Abdullo and his fighters responsible for the murder of six UN military monitors in eastern Tajikistan in 1998. He was also reported to have gone to Afghanistan and was linked to the Taliban before being detained there before returning to Tajikistan.

The government sent forces to eastern Tajikistan at the end of August when 25 prisoners escaped from a State Committee for National Security detention center.

Ahmadov and Iskandarov, who have since lost their posts in the government, told RFE/RL after the jailbreak that none of the escapees had come to the Rasht Valley but the government was using the opportunity to detain former UTO fighters.

Their concerns about the government operations increased last week when Husnuddin Davlatov, a member of a local council in Rasht, and the brother of former UTO commander Alovuddin Davlatov, were detained in Dushanbe.