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Dozens killed as knife-wielding ‘ISIS convicts’ take hostages, start riot in Tajikistan prison

Dozens killed as knife-wielding ‘ISIS convicts’ take hostages, start riot in Tajikistan prison
Convicted Islamic State militants started a riot at a high-security prison in Tajikistan, in which several guards and dozens of inmates were killed. Local authorities have ramped up security in the vicinity.

The riot broke out late Sunday at a heavily-guarded prison facility in Vahdat, Tajikistan, just 15km east of the capital, Dushanbe, according to Justice Ministry officials quoted by local and Russian media. Armed with knives, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) convicts took prison guards hostage, demanding the immediate release of other inmates.

The situation became more violent after the militants killed the hostages and tried to assault other guards. Security forces intervened and took “resolute measures” to bring the situation under control, but at least 29 prisoners were killed in the standoff.

Meanwhile in Dushanbe, additional police patrols were dispatched by local authorities in the aftermath of the riot. Heavy military presence is also reported close to a highway connecting Vahdat with the capital.

The former Soviet republic of Tajikistan has seen a resurgence of Islamist militancy. In 2018, another riot struck a prison in the second-largest city, Khujand. Numerous radicals tried to seize the guards’ weapons and overcome the facility. Riot police killed 24 militants and restored order after the riot, which was claimed by IS.

The incident has left the city’s security forces on high alert, and all roads to and from the area are under special control. The fact that the riot might have been inspired by an IS militant adds to concerns that the terrorist organization is gaining ground in Tajikistan, a Central Asian country bordering troubled Afghanistan.

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