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Tajikistan Jails Suspected Al-Qaeda Member

DUSHANBE (Reuters) -- Tajikistan's Supreme Court has sentenced a suspected Al-Qaeda member to eight years in jail, it said today, in the latest sign of growing efforts in Central Asia to prevent the spread of Islamist militancy.

Governments in the mainly Muslim region have been keen to show their resolve to assist Western efforts to stop extremism from spilling over from nearby Afghanistan.

The Supreme Court in Tajikistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, said in a statement that Makhmadsaid Mirzoev received military training in Afghanistan in the 1990s and was an active member of Al-Qaeda.

Tajikistan, an impoverished ex-Soviet republic, has jailed a total of 11 suspected Al-Qaeda members over the last two years.

Rights groups have often accused Central Asian governments of using the Islamist threat as an excuse to crack down on political dissent in a region where, like in Soviet times, alternative views are often branded as extremist.

Security analysts say, however, that radical groups with possible links to the Taliban are regaining strength in the region, emboldened by people's growing frustration with economic hardship as a result of the global economic slump.