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Head Of Tajik Rebel Group Surrenders To Authorities

Tolib Ayombekov surrended to the authorities on August 11.
Tolib Ayombekov surrended to the authorities on August 11.
KHORUGH, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities say that Tolib Ayombekov, head of a rebel group accused of killing a high-ranking security official, has surrendered to the authorities in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Province.

Prior to his surrender late on August 12, Ayombekov told a local television station that he wanted to give himself up along with several of his supporters for the sake of peace in the region.

"I also call upon others to lay down their arms so no one is armed in Badakhshan anymore, and whoever breaks the law should be held responsible," Ayombekov added.

"We haven't surrendered because we are afraid. We did it for the sake of peace."

Ayombekov said he was currently undergoing medical treatment in a hospital in the city of Khorugh, the provincial capital of Gorno-Badakhshan.

Officials in Gorno-Badakhshan told RFE/RL that Ayombekov had given himself up on the condition that he would be given a chance to prove his innocence in a free and fair trial in Khorugh.

Crackdown After General's Killing

Tajik government forces conducted a military operation against Ayombekov's armed group last month, following the killing of regional security chief Abdullo Nazarov.

General Nazarov, 56, was reportedly stabbed to death while visiting the region's south, in an attack described as the first on a high-ranking security officer in Tajikistan in recent years.

Ayombekov denies any link to Nazarov's killing. Ayombekov also rejects accusations that he has been involved in smuggling of drugs and minerals and the trafficking of women to neighboring Afghanistan.

Some 70 people, including many civilians, were reported killed during the July 24 military operation in Khorugh.

Tajik officials said some 40 militants, including eight Afghan nationals, were arrested during the operation.

Gorno-Badakhshan, or the Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Province, is a sparsely populated region in the Pamir Mountains with a population of around 250,000 people.

The region, which borders Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan, mainly supported the opposition during Tajikistan's civil war in the 1990s.
With reporting by and

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