Gun battle in Tajikistan capital: 17 victims, former minister involved
The authorities of the Central Asian country confirm "terrorist" attack led by former Deputy Defence Minister Abuhalim Nazarzoda. The US closes embassy and warns of "Possible further violence." Behind the ambush, simmering political instability, rare in the nation led by Rakhmon.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A "terrorist" attack has taken place on the outskirts of the capital of Tajikistan and at the same time in a building of the Ministry of the Interior which caused 17 victims.

The confirmation comes from the same ministry, according to which eight policemen and two attackers died in the clashes. Others might be civilians. According to authorities, the former deputy defense minister Abuhalim Nazarzoda is behind the attack.

The violence occurred yesterday, but was only confirmed today: "An organized criminal group - writes the ministry - has launched an attack on Vahdat [just outside Dushanbe ed] and in the nation's capital. A large number of weapons and ammunition was seized and taken away by the terrorists. " The commando "led by General Nazarzoda" then fled towards the Romit Gorge area: "We are looking for them and their accomplices".

Armed clashes of this kind are very rare in the country. It may have been caused by a dispute over the role of Islam in public life: the majority of the population is Muslim, but Tajikistan - former satellite state of the Soviet Union - has a long political history of secularism. The economic crisis and internal problems have fostered some forms of radical Islam, especially among the young.

Last week the Ministry of Justice banned the Islamic Revival Party, the only political formation of a religious nature in Tajikistan. However, the reasons may be also political: the president, Emomali Rakhmon, has been at the helm of the nation for 20 years and his main opponent - the United Tajik Opposition - is trying to oust him by force.

The United States has closed its embassy and warned of possible further violence.