U.N. observers taken hostage in Tajikistan
December 20, 1996
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EST (1620 GMT)
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (CNN) -- Armed rebels seized as many as
23 hostages, including nine U.N. military observers, in
Tajikistan Friday and reportedly threatened to kill them if
demands are not met within two days.
The leader of the hostage-takers, who called themselves
"Rizvon Sadirov's Group," sent an ultimatum to the United
Nations, but U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi declined to reveal
Guerrillas seized the hostages after they halted a U.N.
convoy on a highway between the towns of Faizabad and Garm,
about 90 miles (144 km) east of the capital of Dushanbe.
Included in the convoy were U.N. personnel, Tajik government
officials and representatives of the armed Islamic
There has been fighting in the region all month.
According to a U.N. source in Dushanbe, the rebels have
outlined several demands, one of which calls for the Islamic
opposition to free the brother of rebel commander, Rizvon
Sadirov. Sadirov joined forces with the Tajikistan
government last month, but is currently believed to be in
neighboring Afghanistan with groups of his followers.
If demands are not met by 2 p.m. (0900 GMT) Sunday, the
rebels said they would shoot the hostages and detonate 30
bombs strategically placed throughout Dushanbe.
The news of the hostage-taking comes as the president of
Tajikistan's hard-line government, Imomali Rakhmonov, and
top opposition leader Sayid Abdullo Nuri were meeting in
Moscow Friday before the scheduled signing of a formal cease-
fire agreement Saturday. The accord is aimed at ending four
years of civil war in the former Soviet republic.
At U.N. headquarters Thursday, the Security Council president
complained about the treatment of its observers in
Tajikistan, who were subjected to mock executions and
beatings by government troops this month.
"U.N. personnel have been subjected to death threats,"
Francesco Paolo Fulci. "They line them up against the wall as
if they're going to be executed."
The U.N. has more than 40 observers in Tajikistan.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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