Tajikistan's leader fired almost the entire leadership of his security services on Thursday as the first of 25 prisoners was recaptured more than a week after an armed jailbreak in the Central Asian republic.
The prisoners, including Russian and Afghan nationals accused of plotting a coup in the former Soviet republic, killed five guards in a shootout when they escaped from a detention centre in the capital Dushanbe last week.
A source in the security services told Reuters one prisoner, a former inmate of the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, had been apprehended as the result of a special operation in the town of Vakhdat, 20 km (13 miles) east of Dushanbe.
The source said Tajik authorities suspected Ibrahim Nasriddinov of helping to organise the escape. He said a second armed suspect was surrounded in a house in a nearby village.
President Imomali Rakhmon's press service said on Thursday that Saimumin Yatimov, a former ambassador to Belgium, had been appointed head of the State Committee for National Security, Tajikistan's successor to the KGB.
Yatimov was the only senior security official to escape the cull. He joined the security service several months ago as its deputy head.
His predecessor, Khairidin Abdurakhimov, had served in the position for 11 years. Rakhmon's press service said he had asked to be relieved of his duties.
Authorities in Tajikistan, which shares a porous 1,340-km (840-mile) border with Afghanistan, ordered a manhunt for the fugitives when they escaped on Aug. 23 and requested assistance from Interpol, as well as Afghan and Russian security forces.
The escaped prisoners were among the 46 people to whom Tajikistan's Supreme Court in August handed down long jail terms on accusations they had planned to overthrow the authorities.
They included four Afghan citizens and six Russians from the Caucasus republics of Dagestan and Chechnya. All were arrested in July 2009 in eastern Tajikistan, the scene of fierce civil war battles in the 1990s.
Rakhmon has led Tajikistan since 1992 and spent the first five years of his rule fighting the civil war against an alliance of religious and democratic groups, in which more than 100,000 people were killed.
Tajik authorities have cracked down hard on what they believe to be a threat of Islamic radicalism. More than 100 members of banned groups have been imprisoned this year alone.
Rakhmon, in a televised speech last week, urged parents to withdraw their children from religious schools abroad, saying that these foreign students would become "extremists" and "terrorists".
ReutersLast Mod: 02 Eylül 2010, 16:52