Less than two months after reporting that militant commander Alovuddin Davlatov (more commonly known as Ali Bedaki or Bedak) was killed in battle, Tajik security agencies are confronted with a video that allegedly undermines the official account of the rebel’s death. The four-minute mobile phone video circulating in Tajikistan and posted on YouTube shows uniformed men, supposedly members of Tajik law enforcement agencies, questioning a bearded man whom they address as Ali Bedaki. The latter sits half-naked in the back seat of a car, with a gun pointed at him, and appears very humiliated.
An interrogator in combat fatigue questions Ali Bedaki about the assault on a government military convoy in the Kamarob gorge in Rasht valley which occurred on September 19, 2010. The assault left 28 soldiers dead and many wounded, becoming the deadliest attack on government forces since the end of the civil war in the country. The Tajik defense ministry and law enforcement agencies blamed the attack on Ali Bedaki and Abdullo Rahimov (aka Mullo Abdullo), who had been prominent Islamic opposition commanders in the 1990s. The day after the assault, state-run television channels aired a “confession” of a detained Islamic Revival Party (IRPT) activist, asserting that his brother, Ali Bedaki, was behind the attack. The televised confession also included claims that Bedaki headed a “terrorist group” of about 100 militants, including foreign mercenaries, created a “terrorist camp” and was producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for terrorist attacks in Tajikistan.
Three days after the assault, government forces launched a massive security operation in the Rasht valley, which used to be an Islamic opposition stronghold during the civil war, reportedly to capture Bedaki and Mullo Abdullo. About three months later, on January 4, 2011, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported that Bedaki and eight of his fighters had been killed by Tajik security forces in the village of Runob, less than a kilometer from Rasht. According to the official explanation, the militants were killed after being spotted by a police patrol and refusing to surrender. One militant was reportedly captured alive. However, video footage and photographs taken by security forces show only seven bodies, according to Tajik journalists. Security agencies have so far refused to return the militants’ bodies to their relatives for burial, claiming that the national legislation prohibits handing terrorists’ bodies to relatives. Independent lawyers assert that the claims are false and such legislation does not exist.
The video appears to undermine the government’s description of Bedaki’s killing. Spokespersons for the MIA and State Committee for National Security (GKNB) said they saw the video, but refused to comment on it. Meanwhile, residents of the Rasht valley and former opposition fighters confirmed that the man in the video was definitely Bedaki. Opposition activists say the video proves that security agencies are not truthful in suggesting that Badaki was killed in battle.
The authenticity of the video is also confirmed by other details. The interrogator in the video tells Bedaki that he knows about a surgery on his fingers and asks whether the surgery was performed by doctor named Vazirov. On February 17, the MIA spokesperson announced that two doctors from the Rasht central hospital, Abdullo Vazirov and Muhammadkholik Sodiqov, had been detained and charged with connections to Bedaki’s “criminal group”. According to media reports, the doctors were arrested for treating Bedaki and his fighters for gunshot wounds and failing to inform Tajik security agencies that they had done so.
Meanwhile, the MIA also arrested Bedaki’s 76-year-old father, Muzaffar Davlatov, charging him with “cooperating with illegal groups, arms possession, and unwillingness to inform the law-enforcement agencies of his son’s plans and activities”. The property and farm that belonged to Bedaki’s family in Rasht have been confiscated.
The contentious account of Bedaki’s death bears a strong resemblance to a controversial explanation offered by Tajik authorities after the July 2009 killing of another prominent civil war-era militant commander, Mirzo Ziyoev. Major discrepancies emerged in the official account of Ziyoev’s death. It is most likely that just as it did after Ziyoev’s death, the government will now also choose to completely ignore the difficult questions posed by the Bedaki video.
(By Alexander Sodiqov, CACI Analyst, March 2, 2011)