Eleven Members of German Aid Group Held in Tajikistan
Eleven employees of a German humanitarian aid group, including a US citizen, are being held hostage by unknown assailants, the German embassy in Dushanbe told AFP on Saturday.
A Tajik emergency ministry official confirmed that 15 workers with the German Agro-Action group were seized in the Tavil-Dara region, in the foothills of the Pamir mountains east of Dushanbe, late on Friday.
Four of the hostages had since been released, the German embassy said.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rakhmonov called an emergency meeting with army chiefs, ministers and the heads of security bodies on Saturday, urging them to resolve the situation through negotiations, a security ministry source told AFP.
The source said the kidnappers were thought to be former Islamic guerrillas who had been incorporated into the regular Tajik armed forces under a peace deal in 1997 which ended a five-year civil war.
They are also holding four Tajik interior ministry soldiers, who they seized on the outskirts of the Tajik capital Dushanbe on Monday.
The German embassy said the kidnappers had released two German women, a Russian woman of Tajik origin and a local chauffeur.
The 11 aide workers still captive comprised two Germans, a US national and eight local employees of Agro-Action, the embassy said.
The kidnappers have demanded the immediate release of four members of their group, who were arrested last month and charged with the murder of deputy interior minister General Habib Sanginov, an embassy official said.
Sanginov was gunned down in Dushanbe on April 11, in what the government described as "a terrorist act with a political motivation."
On Friday the Russian authorities said they had arrested and expelled Saidamir Karimov, a leading suspect in the killing of Sanginov, to Dushanbe.
Karimov, a Tajik national, was trained by Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then headed a drugs ring in Tajikistan, interior ministry officials said.
Sanginov had been close to the Islamic opposition during the five-year civil war that ended in 1997, but joined the government in 1999 and headed a special unit devoted to the fight against organized crime.
Tajikistan, the poorest of the five former Soviet central Asian republics, is one of the main routes through which heroin from Afghanistan is channeled to the West via Russia.
Despite the accord between the country's Communist government and the Muslim fundamentalist opposition, unrest is widespread and crime is rife in the central Asian republic -- DUSHANBE (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)