World Bulletin/News Desk
Rebels in Tajikistan have refused to disarm or hand over a former warlord wanted by the authorities, increasing the chances that the government will launch a new military offensive against them, a senior security source said on Saturday.
Fighters in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region near the Afghan border are locked in a standoff with the government after President Imomali Rakhmon sent troops into the area on Tuesday to look for a former opposition warlord accused of killing a local security chief.
The prosecutor-general said on Saturday that the heavy fighting that followed had killed 17 troops, 30 rebels and one civilian, in violence that has raised concerns about the stability of the majority Muslim nation.
Rakhmon called a ceasefire late on Tuesday, promising to pardon anyone who disarmed, demanding that the rebels hand over Tolib Ayombekov, the wanted former warlord, along with three fighters.
But a security source told Reuters on Saturday that the rebels had refused.
"All chances of a peaceful surrender have been exhausted," said the source, who requested anonymity. "We do not rule out a second phase of the military operation. We are only awaiting an order from the president and will act accordingly."
"There are four groups of them (rebels) left - 30 or 40 people in each gang. No more than 150 people altogether. We have all means (for a new offensive) - around 3,000 military personnel have been concentrated in Gorno-Badakhshan."
The authorities did not know where Ayombekov was hiding, he added. "Maybe he is in Afghanistan, maybe he is here, on our land, but we will do everything to destroy his gang," he said.
The government's decision to dispatch helicopter gunships, armoured vehicles and thousands of troops to the area was sparked by the killing last Saturday of local GKNB security chief Major-General Abdullo Nazarov, head of the local successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
His agency had accused Ayombekov's gang of smuggling drugs, tobacco and precious stones.
However, Ayombekov, who fought against Rakhmon's troops in a 1992-97 civil war before receiving a government job in the peace deal that ended the conflict, denied any involvement in Nazarov's killing.
Some analysts said that the assault - the first military operation on such a scale in almost two years - was a show of force by Rakhmon, whose control over parts of the Central Asian state remains tenuous 15 years after the end of the civil war.
Separated from Afghanistan by the Pyandzh river, Gorno-Badakhshan is an autonomous region where the authority of the central government is particularly fragile. Most of its 250,000 inhabitants sided with the opposition during the civil war.
Tajikistan is the poorest of 15 former Soviet republics.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the government would not hesitate to enforce its writ and was considering cracking down against those attacking state institutions.
The government will seek to bring all abductees back regardless of whether they have been officially recognised as abducted
Negotiators hope a deal can draw a line under the decades of hostilities and instability in the desert north of the West African nation.
Protests descended into deadly chaos over the weekend, with demonstrators clashing with police in a central area near many government buildings and embassies
Mohammad Mohaqeq, one of Abdullah's vice presidential running mates, told Reuters the two sides could not agree on the powers of the chief executive, blaming the Ghani camp for hardening its position
Israel announced the appropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years
Miguel Vasquez, a spokesman for the Mayan elders, defended their decision, saying "the constitution protects us because we need to conserve and preserve our culture."
Voters in Scotland will decide on Sept. 18 whether they want to form an independent state with opinion polls showing Scots are likely to vote to keep their 307-union with England intact.
Iceland cut the level back to orange - the next highest level - saying the eruption was not creating ash.
The move came as the government said it had lost control of most ministries and state institutions located in Tripoli after rival armed groups took over the capital
Powers will include a temporary ban on those suspected of fighting in Syria and Iraq returning to the UK.
Western officials say Iran must address the IAEA's concerns and that this is vital for any chance of success in parallel negotiations to end a decade-old nuclear standoff with the West.
Greek Cypriot mayor of Girne (Kyrenia), Galfkos Kariolu, suggested the idea as a way to boost the Greek Cypriot population in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Zuma was due to meet Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to try to resolve a political crisis in the small mountain kingdom after an apparent coup
Among the detained are several top wartime police officers and members of a notorious military group known as "Mice", suspected of committing the war crimes in the northern towns of Teslic and Doboj
Leaders of anti-government protests Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri charged by police for inciting violence and attacking security forces.