Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has said that he is concerned about the growth of extremism in his country, particularly among young people.
"I would like to express my concerns about the rising extremism in our country and the insufficiently effective measures to combat this dangerous phenomenon by law-enforcement agencies," Rahmon said at a February 17 meeting of Tajikistan's Security Council.
"Terrorism and religious extremism have become a global threat. We see the magnitude of [the terrorists'] acts and their terrible consequences every day on television and other mass media," Rahmon was quoted as saying by his press service.
In order to combat the problem of extremism, Rahmon said that it was crucial for law-enforcement agencies to "work more closely and effectively with civil society and the clergy to prevent the involvement of young people in various terrorist and extremist groups."
Rahmon's comments came as a Tajik court on February 17 convicted 13 Tajiks of recruiting mercenaries to fight in Syria.
The 13 men from Tajikistan's northernmost Sughd Province were aged between 26 and 42 and were reportedly members of the outlawed group Jamaat Ansarullah.
The Khujand municipal court found the men guilty of several counts including organization and participation in an illegal group and the illegal possession and purchase of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and explosive devices.
The republic's Interior Ministry says that in 2015, police arrested dozens of activists from banned groups -- including Jamaat Ansarallah, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Tajikistan's law-enforcement agencies have said that there are no fewer than 300 citizens from Tajikistan -- Central Asia's poorest country -- fighting in Syria. Edward Lemon from the U.K.'s University of Exeter, who tracks Tajik fighters in Syria, says there is online evidence of 67 militants, though there are likely to be more unreported Tajiks in the war-torn country.
There is also evidence that Tajik militants are fighting in Iraq. According to a January blog post by Lemon, Tajik militants fighting with the Islamic State group in Iraq uploaded 13 videos to the Russian social-networking site Odnoklassniki in December 2014. In some of the videos, Tajik militants call on other Tajiks to join the fighting in Iraq.
At least some of the militants have expressed a desire to leave Iraq and return to Tajikistan to fight there, according to a video published on the Internet in December 2014. The video shows an ethnic Tajik who calls himself Abu Umariyon, who says that a group of Tajik militants in the Islamic State group had asked permission from militant leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to return to Tajikistan and fight with Jamaat Ansarallah. Baghdadi refused permission, according to Abu Umariyon.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk