Two Killed in Land Mine Blast on Tajik-Uzbek Border
Two Tajik men were killed after stepping on an anti-personnel mine on the northern mountainous border with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan's interior ministry told AFP Monday.
The men were crossing the unmarked border Saturday to visit relatives in Uzbekistan when the mine exploded, killing them instantly, a ministry spokesman said.
Seventeen civilians including women and children have been killed since August by landmines set by Uzbek border guards over the summer in an attempt to stave off Islamic insurgents.
There is one unmined road, the official crossing between the two Central Asian republics, the spokesman said. However many villagers living in the Pyanzh mountain range choose to walk over the open frontier which is not visibly marked as a mined area.
Uzbek officials have said that members of the fundamentalist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are harbored by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and often attempt to travel between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan via Tajikistan.
The movement, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, last year abducted a group of Japanese geologists in Kyrgyzstan and reportedly was involved in series of bombs in the Uzbek capital Tashkent that killed 16 people.
Over a hundred armed extremists attacked Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August in a bid to set up an Islamic state in Central Asia's Ferghana Valley.
The interior ministry spokesman added that six members of the banned Tajik Islamic party Khizbi Takhrir, or Freedom Party, had been arrested in the northern Leninabad region on charges of inciting racial hatred by distributing extremist information.
The Tajik military has said that the Khizbi Takhrir party is financed from abroad and attracts young unemployed men by offering to pay them a salary for their cooperation.
Tajik experts estimate the party has several thousand active members.
Over one hundred religious activists have been arrested in Tajikistan this year, the interior ministry said -- DUSHANBE (AFP)
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