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Missing Tajik Police Commander Appears On Internet, Says Has Joined IS

Gulmorad Halimov's relatives say he disappeared on April 23 after telling his wife he would be traveling on business for three days.

A top Tajik police commander who has been missing for weeks has reappeared on the Internet, claiming that he has joined the Islamic State (IS) militant group in protest at official restrictions on religious observance back home.

In a video posted on YouTube, Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, the commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's Special Forces, known as OMON, singled out Tajikistan's crackdown on Islamic dress and limitations on public prayer as reasons for his radicalization.

Halimov, a father of eight, says that Tajik labor migrants "must stop serving infidels" in Russia and join IS in Syria and Iraq in order to establish Shari'a law in other countries, including Tajikistan.

In his video statement, made mostly in Russian, Halimov calls democracy "a religion of infidels" and describes Americans as "pigs," threatening that "we will come to you to kill you all."

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately confirmed, and it's not clear where the clip was shot. The 12-minute recording was removed from YouTube several hours after it appeared there on May 27.

In the video, Halimov says he joined the Tajik police force in the early 1990s and attended training courses in Moscow and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the last several years.

Halimov's relatives say he disappeared on April 23 after telling his wife he would be traveling on business for three days.

His colleagues, meanwhile, said he disappeared after a May 6 meeting between Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda and top police officers at OMON headquarters in Dushanbe.

Media reports in Tajikistan had speculated that Halimov and 10 other Tajiks left for Syria, though that information was never officially confirmed by Tajik authorities.

An officer of the Tajik OMON told RFE/RL on May 28 that the Tajik police force would issue an official statement shortly condemning Halimov's "betrayal of religion and country."

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that he knew Halimov well and suggested that his decision to join the Islamist militants in Middle East must have been caused not by his religious viewpoints but "something else." He did not elaborate.

Halimov's relatives said earlier they did not believe that he joined Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq.