Tajikistan said on Wednesday, November 6 that fighters from Islamic State who crossed the border from Afghanistan were behind a clash with security forces that left 17 people dead.
“All [of them] are members of the so-called terrorist group ‘Islamic State,'” the border guard service said in a statement.
Tajik security forces killed 15 assailants when an armed gang attacked a checkpoint on the border with Uzbekistan, officials said, adding that a soldier and a policeman also died in the clash.
“As a result of an operation conducted by law enforcement forces, 15 members of an armed criminal group were neutralized and four more attackers detained,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Around 3:30 a.m. (2230 GMT), “unidentified masked men, using firearms, attacked the border post,” the ministry said, adding that they captured five firearms. Fifteen of the attackers were killed and their car destroyed, while four others fled, according to the statement.
The ministry released pictures of several bodies lying next to burnt-out vehicles at the scene of the clash.
The country’s border guards said separately that five attackers had been detained.
Update, November 8: Islamic State on Friday claimed that “soldiers of the caliphate” attacked the border guard center and that clashes lasted “a number of hours, leading to the death of at least 10″ guards.
The statement posted to ISIS social media channels attributed the attack to the group’s Tajikistan affiliate, not Khorasan Province, its Afghanistan-based affiliate.
The clashes outside the capital Dushanbe broke out as the country prepared to celebrate Constitution Day on Wednesday and the country’s long-serving President Emomali Rakhmon was on a visit to Switzerland.
Rakhmon is expected to visit Paris later this week to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron as part of a rare European visit that will also take in the Czech Republic.
Tajikistan, a poor mountainous country of nine million people bordering Afghanistan, has been hit by conflicts since it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Tens of thousands of people were killed in Tajikistan during a five-year civil war in the 1990s when rebel groups including Islamists rose up against the government.
The authorities in the majority-Muslim country have said that more than 1,000 Tajiks joined Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq in recent years.
In May, at least 32 people were killed in a prison riot in Tajikistan, including 19 members of the Islamic State jihadist group and several guards.
The prison in Vakhdat, 17 km (11 miles) east of the capital Dushanbe, holds 1,500 inmates.
In July 2018, an attack on foreign cycling tourists left four dead and two injured.
The assault was widely attributed to Islamic State.
With reporting from AFP