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Deadly Prison Riot Reported In Northern Tajikistan


Local residents told RFE/RL that gunshots were heard from the prison area. 
Local residents told RFE/RL that gunshots were heard from the prison area. 

KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- At least 22 people, including two guards, were killed when a riot broke out late on November 7 in a prison in Tajikistan’s northern city of Khujand, sources close to local authorities told RFE/RL on November 8.

Several people were wounded in the fighting, sources said.

It is still not clear what sparked the riot, which was quashed only after additional police forces were sent to the site.

Security sources told RFE/RL that the fighting began after an inmate attacked and killed a prison guard.

The body of one of the guards killed in the incident, 29-year-old Ehson Yoqubov, was buried in his native village of Pastighav on November 8, the village's head Shohkarim Muhammadiev told RFE/RL.

There was no immediate official reaction from the government. The local administration only confirmed that there had been a riot, without offering further information.

The sources told RFE/RL that security forces were on high alert and that Justice Ministry staff and other officials flew to Khujand immediately after the incident last night.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.

Tajik independent news agency Asia Plus cited sources at the Khujand city hospital as saying that six police officers were admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds.

A doctor described their condition as "relatively serious," but "not life-threatening."

Local residents say that police cordoned all roads and highways connecting Khujand, Tajikistan's second largest city, with neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The penitentiary in Khujand, officially known as high-security prison No. 3/3, which largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism and extremism and other serious crimes, is located some 300 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe.

Authorities say more than 1,000 Tajiks have joined IS in Syria and Iraq, while dozens of others were detained at home for suspected links to the extremist group.

Security sources said many of the inmates in the Khujand prison are those convicted of membership or affiliation with banned militant groups, including IS Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and others.

Other inmates include convicted murderers and drug dealers, they said.

The prison currently houses some 800 inmates -- around 50 more than it was originally designed to accommodate, said the source at the Justice Ministry.

Officials in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan said on November 8 that, due to the prison riot in Khujand, the two countries had beefed up security along the Tajik border.

With reporting by Interfax and RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

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