Tajik Coup Raises New Security Concerns

GUNFIGHTS raged yesterday in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, a day after forces loyal to ousted President Rakhman Nabiyev claimed power.

Moscow proposed peacekeeping forces, saying it feared "catastrophic consequences" if the conflict spread further.

In Washington, the State Department said it had closed its embassy in Dushanbe and evacuated embassy personnel "in response to an increasingly volatile security situation in which we can no longer be assured that sufficient measures can be taken to guarantee the safety of our personnel."

Armed supporters of Mr. Nabiyev seized control of key buildings in Dushanbe, including the presidential palace and parliament, at dawn on Saturday. The rebel forces were led by one-time parliamentary chairman Safarli Kenjayev, a loyal supporter of Mr. Nabiyev, who was ousted in September by a coalition embracing radical Muslims and parliamentary democrats. But shortly after dawn yesterday the clashes resumed.

The action occurred just hours after acting President Akbarsho Iskandarov imposed a state of emergency and curfew. Mr. Iskandarov took refuge in the interior ministry building.

An official of the Russian border guard based in the city said shooting had stopped Saturday night after the failure of an early evening counterattack by anti-Nabiyev forces. The Russian Army and border troops based in Tajikistan say they are neutral in the conflict.

It was not clear whether Nabiyev would be brought back as a figurehead, whether Iskandarov would remain head of state, or whether Kenjayev had presidential ambitions.

Any return by Kenjayev would gall his enemies. Demands for his removal in May triggered a campaign that eventually brought Nabiyev's removal last month. He is seen by both radical Muslim and parliamentary opponents as the embodiment of the old repressive communist regime.

Iskandarov made a televised plea to other leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States to send peacekeeping forces to Tajikistan.

Russia echoed the appeal, saying the commonwealth or the United Nations should stop the fighting in the former Soviet republic.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.