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Tajikistani authorities insist the killers of four tourists last month are members of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party, despite the release of a video showing the attackers swearing loyalty to Islamic State.
The 29 July attack on a group of seven cycle tourists left two Americans, one Dutch national, and one Swiss dead in one of the most violent assaults on Westerners in Central Asia in recent years. The other three cyclists were injured in the attack on a road about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Dushanbe.
Cracks soon began to appear in the official version pinning blame on the IRPT, the once-legal Islamist party which has come under severe pressure since its alleged part in attacks on government buildings in 2015.
Islamic State took responsibility for the attack within hours, while providing no evidence to back its claim. Then came the release of the video of five of the attackers on the website of the IS-affiliated Amaq agency, Tajikistan’s Asia-Plus news agency reported. Four of the men were reported to have been killed in the hours following the 29 July attack, and their leader, Husein Abdusamadov, was taken into custody. Officials said all five were IRPT members.
On 3 August, Tajikistan’s state prosecutor said the video had been released "with the aim of deflecting suspicions from another terrorist organization – the Islamic Renaissance Party," AFP reported.
The party, many of whose leaders are in prison or living outside the country, denies any role in the attack.
“Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the broader scenario repeatedly put forward by Tajik authorities is that the IRPT is supposedly plotting unrest in cahoots with Iran,” Eurasianet.org writes.
This unlikely allegation may have something to do with the policy of Iran’s bitter rival Saudi Arabia to improve relations with Dushanbe, Eurasianet comments.
Such “intensely muddled and illogical” claims remained under the radar until last month’s attack on tourists. “But the targeted killing of foreign civilians, and U.S. citizens at that, should now prompt more scrutiny from the international community – particularly from those countries collaborating most with Dushanbe in counteracting the threat of Islamist terror,” Eurasianet concludes.
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