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Afghan Drug Smugglers Abduct Tajiks, Steal Cattle

ULOB, Tajikistan -- Tajiks living near the border with Afghanistan say armed Afghan drug smugglers routinely kidnap Tajiks for ransom and steal livestock, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Bozor Boboev, who lives in a village on the Tajik-Afghan border, told RFE/RL on May 30 that two weeks ago drug smugglers kidnapped his brother, Mirzo, who is a tractor driver.

He said the kidnappers have called them from Afghanistan every day and demanded $20,000 for his release.

Several months ago, officials in the Shuroobod district of Tajikistan's Khatlon Province secured the release of two Tajiks who had been kidnapped.

Local residents say they do not know the reason for the kidnappings. But Tajik analysts say the main reason is that in many cases the victims fail to give the smugglers the proceeds from the sale of the drugs they received from them.

Local resident Shuhrat Nabiev told RFE/RL that local people are afraid, because in most cases the border guards and security forces fail to react quickly in the case of abductions.

Nabiev added that local villagers should be provided with weapons so they can defend themselves, but instead the authorities confiscate their hunting rifles.

On May 29, Afghan drug smugglers stole some 80 cows from a state-owned farm in the Shuroobod district, which borders Afghanistan, and drove them across the border. They also abducted a herder -- but left him at the border.

Shuroobod district prosecutor Ghiyosiddin Umarov confirmed the theft of the cows, saying more details will be available after a special group investigates the incident.

Local residents said that when Russian border guards were deployed along the Tajik-Afghan border, Afghan drug smugglers took thousands of cows, lambs, and goats.

But they said that in the last five or six years since Russian border guards left and Tajiks began patrolling the border, there have been far fewer such thefts of livestock.