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Tajik National Guards Deny Death Toll In Crash

The rugged Rasht Valley
Tajikistan's National Guards have denied multiple media reports that 28 people were killed in a helicopter crash in the east of the country where a military operation against Islamist militants is under way.

The National Guards said in a statement that four crew members were killed when the helicopter went down on October 6, and three technical support staff died later as a result of their injuries.

A spokeswoman said the crash was apparently caused by a technical problem.

Earlier on October 7, media reports quoted military sources as saying up to 28 people, including soldiers of an elite counterterror unit, were killed when the helicopter went down in what was a possible missile strike by militants.

Spokeswoman Hairinisso Komilova would not comment on reports that six National Guard soldiers were also killed on October 6 in a land-mine explosion in Rasht.

Tajik government forces launched a special operation to apprehend militants in the Rasht Valley after at least 26 soldiers were killed in an ambush on a military convoy in the region in September.

Officials said the militants were led by former commanders of Islamist opposition forces that fought against government forces during the 1992-97 Tajik civil war.

compiled from agency reports