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.
President says country calculating budget for sheltering Rohingya; military launches search and rescue operation.
Senior news executives leave new media group after claims parent company sold bogus degrees.
US requested that its surveillance aircraft remain on Phuket island to help provide aid to Bangladeshi, Muslim Arakan migrants.
Nearly 100 bodies of suspected Arakan (Rohingya) migrants reportedly found, after similar finds across border in Thailand.
The families of two 2 Malaysians who were kidnapped, have called their families and to make demand money for food, diabetes medicine for victims.
The bodies of all 16 people trapped in a building that collapsed in south China have all been found.
A school bus crash in south China has killed two children, and injured 21.
A nationality row has sparked a row after a Kashmiri leader refused to identify himself as Indian. Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani must declare he is Indian to receive passport.
The UN envoy has called for transparent and accountability on draft law which NGOs say might stifle freedom of expression and association.
The Thai junta have arrested opposition activists on the anniversary of the coup last year. For the Thai people, criticizing the regime is out of the question: any political gathering of more than five people could lead to imprisonment.
Unofficial armed groups are being recruited by NATO and the Afghan government in Kunduz.
Jayalalithaa Jayaram is set to return as chief minister to Tamil Nadu after she was acquitted by the Karnatka High Court this month
The western Myanmar state of Rakhine said the boat was from Thailand and the plan was to send the migrants back.
The orphaned girls of Kashmir's Gulshan-e-Banaat receive support and education but are anxious about future.
China has labelled US overflight actions as irresponsible and dangerous, after it was ordered a number of times to "go away".
US President Barack Obama has announced his decision to upgrade Tunisa's NATO status.