World Bulletin / News Desk
Rebels facing off against government troops in Tajikistan's volatile east began laying down their weapons on Sunday after the authorities threatened to launch a new offensive to capture a former warlord accused of killing a local security chief.
President Inomali Rakhmon had called a ceasefire late last Tuesday after heavy fighting, promising to pardon anyone who disarmed while demanding that the rebels handed over Tolib Ayombekov, the former warlord, along with three fighters.
A senior Tajik security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Sunday that the rebels had started to surrender at about 0200 GMT, handing over "dozens of guns".
"We now hope that everything will end peacefully," he said.
Tajikistan's interior ministry confirmed the news in a statement, saying: "Members of illegal armed units in the Gorno-Badakhshan region have started turning in their arms ... Those laying down their weapons are immediately amnestied."
Rakhmon had sent troops into the area on Tuesday in pursuit of former opposition field commander Ayombekov, accusing him of killing Major-General Abdullo Nazarov, the head of the Gorno-Badakhshan branch of the GKNB, successor of the Soviet-era KGB, on July 21.
Officials said the heavy fighting that followed killed 17 troops, 30 rebels and one civilian, in violence that raised concerns about the stability of the majority Muslim nation.
On Saturday - after several days of talks - the authorities issued a final warning, telling the rebels they would launch a new large-scale military offensive against them unless they surrendered.
"Warlord not surrendered"
However, not all of the authorities' demands were met.
"At this stage, there is no talk about the surrender of Ayombekov and other rebels accused of killing Nazarov," the same security source told Reuters on Sunday. "Militants say they are in Afghanistan, and we also do not exclude this."
"The main thing is that this (stand-off) now ends peacefully, and we will return to Ayombekov's capture later."
After Nazarov was killed, the government sent helicopters, armoured vehicles and thousands of troops into the area.
Ayombekov, who fought against Rakhmon 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.
Fearing possible infiltration of Taliban-linked fighters who support Ayombekov, Tajikistan closed all its border crossings with Afghanistan, only allowing trucks carrying military cargo for NATO troops there to pass.
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. Tens of thousands died in its civil war, in which Rakhmon's Moscow-backed troops fought a loosely aligned opposition that included many Islamist fighters.
Former imperial master Russia still has 6,000 troops stationed in Tajikistan, its largest military deployment abroad.
A "civil nuclear deal" with Pakistan and the United States is on the horizon with representatives from both countries discussing options before Pakistani Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif visits Washington at the end of the month
Assistance is expected from four countries: China, Malaysia, Russia & Singapore
'Enough. Even war has rules,' Doctors Without Borders president says
Pakistani military spokesman saysin statement that allegations of Pakistani involvement in Kunduz attack are 'mischievous'
Two states agreed on submarines trade deal, entailing transfer of technology for submarine construction to Pakistan
'We have to provide our senior leadership options different than the current plan we are going with,' says Gen. Campbell
Humanitarian situation in the strategic northern city is thought to be difficult but the extent of what is needed remains unclear because of problems getting access
German chancellor held lengthy talks with the Indian prime minister on her first trip to New Delhi since Modi's right-wing party stormed to power
USgeneral says Afghan army called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck,
Father, three children reported to have been asleep inside house when three men armed with M-16 rifles barged in and fired on them
Local forces resist Taliban attempt to capture Maimana, week after temporary fall of Kunduz
Six parties won seats in the Kyrgyzstan legislature, all of them pro-Russian, in Sunday's vote
Doctors Without Borders put US under pressure as they wish to investigate Kunduz hospital bombing
Six political parties in total pass threshold to enter 120-member unicameral legislature
Hospital operator Medecins Sans Frontieres says it is ‘disgusted’ by Afghan gov’t claims that medical compound was exploited by Taliban
PM's remarks came a day after 66-year-old Japanese citizen was shot dead in northern Bangladesh, the second foreigner to be murdered in the South Asian nation in less than a week