Tajikistan’s top diplomat says 25 people have been killed in a recent prison riot in the city of Khujand in the first public comment by Tajik authorities about the violence in the country’s north.
Describing the violence in the high-security prison, Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said the rioters attacked prison guards, killing two officers and seriously wounding five others.
“The officers attempted to enter negotiations with them, [but] rioters continued confronting [them] while attempting to escape the facility,” Muhriddin said.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Brussels on November 22, Muhriddin said that 21 rioters “were neutralized” during the confrontation. Two inmates were killed while trying to help prison guards, he added.
Muhriddin made the comments at a press conference after the EU-Tajikistan Cooperation Council meeting chaired by Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency.
The Tajik government has issued no public statements on the violence that occurred late on November 7.
The penitentiary -- high-security prison No. 3/3 -- largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism, extremism, and other serious crimes.
Muhriddin said that “12 of the rioters had fought in Syria and Iraq alongside Islamic State militants,” while three were convicted for memberships of other banned extremist groups.
The minister said the Tajik government will make an official statement about the violence “when an ongoing probe is completed.”
Sources at the Sughd regional court told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service on November 21 that six prison officers, including a department chief, have been arrested in recent days.
Tajik authorities have not publicly confirmed the arrests.
On November 20, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Kevin Covert held talks with Tajik Foreign Ministry officials "to learn about the steps the Tajik government has taken to investigate alleged violations and to insist that the rule of law be upheld."
Covert wrote on Facebook on November 19 that "it is important for the [Tajik] government to conduct a thorough investigation, follow the rule of law, and protect the human rights of prisoners and their families."