Tajikistan police said on Saturday, that they are close to capturing deposed Deputy Defence Minister, Abdukhalim Nazarzoda, who is accused of leading attacks around Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe and Vahdat city, attacks have caused the death of at least 22 people.
According to police reports, nine police officers and 13 gunmen were killed in Friday’s attacks. Following this, security forces chased the rebels out of the city and so far, 32 of them have been captured.
"The territory has been completely surrounded, the operation to apprehend and neutralise the criminals is under way," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
According to Russian news agencies, there was another attack on a police post outside of Dushanbe, killing one and injuring three officers.
Government statements indicate that forces loyal to deposed deputy defence minister and a major general for the Tajik army, Abdukhalim Nazarzoda, were behind the attacks. Nazarzoda is a former rebel fighter and took up his post in the Tajik armed forces under a peace agreement to end the conflict in 1997. He was fired on Friday, by President Imomali Rakhmon, who is known to be a close ally of Russia.
Tensions have erupted in the Central Asian State, after its only registered Islamic political party was prohibited just a week ago. The country’s Interior Ministry had said Nazarzoda was a member of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), however the IRPT on Saturday disaffirmed this and said the government was trying to smear its name.
Following this, was an alleged excessive use of force by police against a 23-year-old student, for refusing to shave his beard.
Kazakhstan-based Central Asia political analyst, Alexander Knyazev, said the latest assault was "beyond all doubt a reaction to Rakhmon's Islamophobia".
"It looks like Rakhmon will now tighten the screws to totally suppress any sort of dissent," added Knyazev.
The rising tension between the pro-Russia secular government and the Islamist opposition is feared to be a return to unrest in Tajikistan, as the predominantly Muslim, former Soviet Republic, is out of balance since a 1992-97 civil war that killed tens of thousands of people. Russia had backed Rakhmon during the conflict and still has 6,000 of its troops present in the country.