20 militants killed on Tajik-Afghan border: official

At least 20 Islamist militants and one border guard were killed earlier this week in a firefight along the volatile border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Tajik officials said Saturday.

The clash was the latest unrest amid increasing violence in Tajikistan in recent weeks, following a prison break in August which freed 25 Al Qaeda-linked militants and a suicide car bombing which killed two police.

Tajik officials said that the slain fighters, who included members of the Taliban, were trying to slip over the border from Afghanistan into Tajikistan when they were discovered by the Tajik border guards.

“These Afghan anti-government fighters were hiding on an island in the river Pyandzh,” which forms the border between the two states, border guard spokesman Colonel Khushnud Rakhmatullayev told AFP.

“There was a clash with small arms fire which lasted nearly 24 hours. As a result, 20 militants, most of the militant group, were killed…. One border ensign was also killed,” he added.

He said that the clash started on Wednesday and lasted until the early hours of Thursday morning. The spokesman’s statement was the first report to have emerged about the firefight.

Seven corpses were recovered by the Tajik border guards while the others were taken by the stream of the river, Rakhmatullayev said. Weapons and copies of Islamist literature were also seized, he added.