25 (Asia Plus, Khovar) to more than 30 (Ozodi, Avesta) prisoners escaped a temporary detention centre in central Dushanbe early in the night from 22 to 23 August. The State Committee for National Security’s (GKNB, former KGB) official statement posted today on the government-run news agency Khovar’s web-site reads:
At 22:10 p.m. on 22 August 2010, a group of criminals, kept in the investigatory isolation ward of the [GKNB], […] attacked the guards and got hold of their firearms. As a result, one guard was killed and 25 armed prisoners put on military uniforms and escaped.
Approximately at 01:10 a.m. on 23 August 2010, the above group of armed criminals attacked a post of the Ministry of Justice’s temporary detention centre [GKNB’s investigatory isolation ward is part the centre], killed four guards and escaped in a vehicle. With an aim of detaining the criminals, [Tajikistan’s] law-enforcement and security agencies have put their staff on high alert and implement urgent investigative measures.
Although the GKNB’s statement does not mention the identity of the escapees, Asia Plus and radio Ozodi cite unnamed sources in the country’s security agencies as saying that Abdurasul Mirzoev, the brother of Ghaffor Mirzoev who had long served as head of the president’s guard and Tajikistan’s drug control agency before being arrested in 2004 on charges ranging from possessing enormous quantities of weapons to plotting to overthrow the government. Following Ghaffor’s arrest, Abdurasul Mirzoev was long on Tajik law-enforcement agencies’ wanted list. In January 2010, he was extradited to Tajikistan from the United Arab Emirates. In late June 2010, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges similar to those brought against his brother.
Two sons of Mirzo Ziyoev, Saidahmad and Muhammadrizo, were also among the escapees. Ziyoev (also known as Mirzo Jaga), a prominent rebel turned government minister, was killed in July 2009, reportedly by militants led by Nemat Azizov, “an active member of the international terrorist group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” according to the GKNB. However, strong irregularities in the official account of Mirzo Ziyoev’s death prompted some analysts to suggest that he was killed by Tajik security forces, which feared that the influential former rebel could serve as a unifying figure for resurgent Islamic insurgency in the country [for more on Mirzo Ziyoev’s death read this]. Following Mirzo Ziyoev’s death, 49 people, including his two sons, were detained on charges of organizing illegal armed groups and attacking a prison. In early July 2010, Saidahmad and Muhammadrizo were sentenced to 30 and 28 years in prison respectively.
Finally, the escapees included two brothers of Nemat Azizov, several members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Afghan and Russian citizens (reportedly with connections to terrorist groups in Russia’s volatile Chechnya region).
Avesta is citing sources in the Tajik security agencies as saying that the runaways have headed to the Rasht valley, home region to some of them and the opposition stronghold during the civil war. Given the proximity of the porous Afghan border, the escapees will most probably opt for crossing the border to Afghanistan as they frequently did during and after the civil war.
The prison escape might be linked with an incident that occurred in Dushanbe yesterday, on 22 August. Three people were accidentally detained by police officers in the south-western part of the capital (where the Russian troops are stationed). The three persons, described by security agencies as “radical Muslims,” were found to have remotely controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One of the three bombers managed to escape.