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Police Mum As Rumors Swirl Around Murder Of Tajik President's Brother-In-Law

Kholmumin Safarov died of multiple gunshot wounds near his home in Dushanbe.
Kholmumin Safarov died of multiple gunshot wounds near his home in Dushanbe.
Two days after the killing of a brother-in-law of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, police in Dushanbe say little is known about who carried out the assassination and why.

Kholmumin Safarov's body was buried on June 15 in the southern district of Danghara, the first family's home region.

Safarov, the husband of Rahmon's eldest sister, was found dead after being shot multiple times near his Dushanbe home. The shooting is reported to have occurred as Safarov was returning home from evening prayers at a nearby mosque.

Police say Safarov was shot in the head, chest, and stomach. Tajikistan's Interior Ministry has offered a financial reward for those who help to find the assailants. The ministry, however, did not disclose the amount of money it was prepared to pay.

Safarov, 57, had served as chief of the Tajik government's State Forests and Hunting Agency since 2009.

No Comment

There has been no official reaction from Rahmon, who was away on a business trip to the northern Sughd Province when the assassination was reported.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (right) went ahead with a meeting with Iranian Vice President Lutfullo Furuzanda on June 15.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (right) went ahead with a meeting with Iranian Vice President Lutfullo Furuzanda on June 15.
The killing did not interrupt the president's official agenda. Rahmon returned to Dushanbe on June 14 as scheduled. He went ahead with his previously announced meeting with visiting Iranian Vice President Lotfollah Forouzandeh Dehkordi on June 15.

There were no meetings with reporters after the talks.

Law-enforcement officials in Dushanbe have dismissed earlier reports suggesting several suspects had been arrested and declined to comment on speculations and rumors surrounding the killing.

Jamshed Sangov, a department head within the Prosecutor-General's Office who is overseeing the investigation, said it was too early to comment on whether there might be political or commercial motives.

"Nothing is known yet," Sangov told RFE/RL's Tajik Service. "All we know is that the body was found with gunshot wounds. Investigations are under way."

That has not stopped the media and observers from weighing in on what could be behind the death of the president's relative.

'Terrorist Act'

Zafar Abdulloev, head of the independent "Content" think tank in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that "it was a terrorist act intended to serve as a warning to the government and the president" ahead of the 2013 presidential elections, in which Rahmon is expected to run.

"This killing signals that our country is entering a new era of instability," he said. "It signals that political problems will begin to crop up ahead of the next presidential elections."

The Russian-language Central Asia News Online, meanwhile, quoted local political scientist Davron Zokirov as saying: "Safarov's killing had nothing to do with the president or politics."

Zokirov suggests Safarov might have been controlling one of the "family businesses" of possible interest to criminal groups.

Rahmon and his extended family have monopolized the political scene in Tajikistan since 1992, when he took power, and many members of the family are believed to have key economic interests in state enterprises. The slain Safarov is not officially tied to any such businesses, however.

He has been portrayed by some observers as a weak target who, unlike many of his influential relatives, does not have personal bodyguards and resided in a reasonably modest neighborhood not far from Dushanbe's main bus station.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service and local media reports
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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