MOSCOW – A car overran a group of touring cyclists in the Central Asian state of Tajikistan this weekend and killed four people from the US, the Netherlands and Switzerland. On Monday, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack.
In a Monday's Radio Free Europe video claiming to be the attack, you see a car making a U-turn on a country road and then accelerated back by a group of fallen and injured cyclists. The Tajik authorities said the inmates of the car had gotten out and stabbed some of the survivors and shot them undoubtedly doubting that the raid was intentional.
This text is a reference to a speech by the former terrorist group spokesman in 2014, in which he urged supporters of the group to carry out attacks in their countries in every conceivable way, including with the help of cars Destroying pedestrians. The choice of language indicates that the militants considered the attackers in Tajikistan inspired by the propaganda and were not directly employed by the terrorist organization.
The Tajik Interior Ministry confirmed the four deaths and said that members of the security services had killed four persons suspected of being involved in the attack, all the natives of Tajikistan, and had arrested a fifth person. The Tajik police said they found a Daewoo car with damage consistent with a collision with the cyclists.
The United States Embassy in Tajikistan confirmed in a statement published on its website that two of the four people killed in the attack were killed by American citizens. They were part of a group of cyclists who cycled in the district of Danghara, about 60 miles south of the capital Dushanbe, on a scenic mountain road that was popular with western cyclists because of their dramatic and remote landscape in a region close by Afghanistan.
Officials identified the other two who were killed as citizens of Switzerland and the Netherlands. Three other cyclists were injured. Ferghana, a news site in Central Asia, said a cyclist, a Frenchman, escaped harm because he had fallen behind the group before the attack.
Although Islamist movements have been active in Central Asia for decades, they are unknown. The target group are Western tourists visiting the historic cities of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, hiking and cycling in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Ferghana news site hinted that the attack could deter tourists.
The Islamic State's claim to accountability appears to be the first for an attack within Tajikistan, analysts said. This is surprising given the large number of Tajiks who are believed to have joined the militants.
According to a recent report by the Soufan group at least 1,300 Tajikistani citizens traveled to jihad in Iraq and Syria. That's one of the biggest numbers for a single country. In contrast, it is believed that no more than a few dozen Americans have entered ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria.
Central Asia is better known as a source of militants attacking Europeans and Americans elsewhere. Tajiks and Uzbeks who carried out or attempted attacks in St. Petersburg, Russia and Stockholm, and an Uzbek man who emigrated to the US in 2010 drove a rented lorry down Manhattan's Hudson River in October (19659002) Tajikistan is a poor one formerly a Soviet state that waged a civil war against Islamist insurgents in the 1990s and has since been plagued by local unrest and violence in opium smuggling in Afghanistan.
A car bomb attack in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, struck the Chinese embassy and was attributed to a militant group affiliated with Al-Qaida and composed of Uyghurs, an ethnic group from western China.
The British Foreign Office has been released A statement on Monday warns tourists in the area, "especially those wandering or cycling in the southern part to exercise extreme caution."
Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow and Rukmini Callimachi from New York. Fahim Abed reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.