Tajiks living along border with Afghanistan trained to defend against possible militants attacks
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Local authorities in Khatlon’s Shamsiddin-Shohin district have held meetings with residents -- including army reservists and hunters -- to discuss the situation, the district head Pochokhon Zarifzoda says.
"In coordination with the police and intelligence departments, we've registered all hunters who live in the border areas. They will have to take up arms to defend our country. In fact, all of us will have to take up weapons if the situation dictates," Zarifzoda reportedly said in an official meeting on March 6.
Similar warnings are reportedly being issued in other Tajik districts near the mountainous border, which is marked by the Panj River.
Authorities, however, have not provided any details about their plans to train the men who they say could be given weapons to help defend the border.
It comes as fighting between the Afghan National Army and the Taliban and other insurgent groups has intensified in areas close to Tajikistan in recent months. Adding to concerns in Dushanbe, Afghan officials have warned that there are many Tajik nationals fighting with the militants.
The border between the Shamsiddin-Shohin district and northeastern Afghanistan is considered one of the most difficult parts of the frontier for Tajik border troops to control.
Two weeks ago, several bullets and shells fired from Afghanistan landed in the backyards of two residential houses and a school in the nearby village of Ruzvai in the Darvoz district of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).
Tajik villagers narrowly missed being hit by gunfire from an exchange between Afghan government forces and the Taliban during a night of fighting on February 24 in Afghanistan's Nusai (Darwaz) district, according to Radio Ozodi.
The following day, Nusai Governor Zainalabedin told RFE/RL there had been at least two Tajik citizens among the militants killed in the clashes. He identified them as Muhammad Yunus and Huzaifa.
It's unlikely the names will provide any clues for Tajik authorities as many Central Asian militants who fight abroad usually get new nicknames, which are often Arabic-style.
Zainalabedin called on Dushanbe to cooperate in the fight against the militants and Tajik nationals who the governor described as affiliates of the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) terror group.
Afghan officials put the number of Tajik militants fighting in Afghanistan at around 200, but it's not possible to verify that number, according to Radio Ozodi.
Dushanbe has long been concerned about the concentration of militants -- including insurgents from Central Asia -- in Afghanistan near the 1,360-kilometer border the countries share.
In December, Tajikistan deployed additional troops along the border after reports emerged that a group of Tajik militants had helped the Taliban overrun an Afghan district several days before.