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Tajik Officials Claim Success Against Islamist Group

KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Local Tajik officials say they have been successful in curtailing the influence of the banned Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir in the northern Sughd Province, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Shavkat Boboev, the mayor of the town of Chkalovsk in Sughd Province, said the government has the resources and the power to confront extremist Islamic groups.

He added that thanks to the government's actions, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been losing its influence among people living in the province, which borders Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Officials from the provincial prosecutor's office said that from 2006 until this year, some 30 followers of the banned movement have been arrested in northern Tajikistan.

In May, seven Hizb ut-Tahrir members were handed prison terms from between 3 1/2 and 9 1/2 years.

Azam Usmonov, the lawyer for Pulod Rustamov, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail last year, told RFE/RL that Rustamov took part in only one Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting and did not even understand what it was or what the group's beliefs are.

Local religious leaders say they -- and not the government -- are mainly responsible for the diminishing influence of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the province because they have ardently explained to people the dangers of Islamic extremist movements.

Analyst Abduvosit Salimzoda says the influence of Hizb ut-Tahrir could be weakening simply because of increased interest in new Islamist groups like Salafiya and Jamaat ut-Tabligh.

But Khairullo Saidov, the chief prosecutor of Sughd Province, said no follower of the banned Salafiya group was detained in Sughd in 2009.