Rebels take Tajik security minister hostage
14 others also held captive
February 8, 1997
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EST (1620 GMT)
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (CNN) -- Tajikistan's security minister
was kidnapped late Friday as he tried to hold talks with rebels holding 14 hostages they abducted last week.
On Saturday, President Emomali Rakhmonov met with military and security leaders to discuss ways to gain freedom for the hostages, Press Secretary Zafar Saidov told ITAR-Tass. Saidov said it was unclear why another hostage was taken.
Saidov said Security Minister Saidamir Zukhurov was seized as he negotiated with rebel leader Bakhrom Sadirov for the release of nine United Nations employees and four Russian journalists and their driver. Sadirov's base is in Kalainav, 84 kilometers (52 miles) east of Dushanbe, the capital.
"This act was totally unexpected by Dushanbe because last
night a firm agreement was reached between Bakhrom Sadirov
and Saidamir Zukhurov about freeing the hostages," Saidov
said Saturday morning.
The rebels had earlier released two Red Cross workers -- a Briton and a Tajik -- who were among the 16 hostages originally taken, U.N. officials said.
The Tajik government has been fighting a coalition of Islamic
and nationalist forces for four years, and a still-fragile truce was signed last December. Russia has 25,000 troops deployed in Tajikistan to help its hard-line government fend off frequent rebel attacks.
Seeks brother's return
Sadirov is demanding that his brother, a former rebel leader who switched his loyalty to the
government, be granted free passage back to Tajikistan from Afghanistan. Sadirov's supporters say the government has reneged on a promise to allow Rivzon Sadirov to return to Tajikistan.
Rivzon Sadirov has reportedly condemned his brother's action and refused to leave Afghanistan.
Sadirov's group abducted five U.N. employees on Tuesday,
followed by two Red Cross workers and the Russians on
Wednesday. Four other U.N. employees were taken on Thursday.
After the rebels released the Red Cross staffers earlier Friday, they agreed to release the remaining hostages "without preconditions," Saidov said.
Both the United Nations and the Red Cross had begun evacuating nonessential personnel from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan. The Red Cross suspended operations in the former Soviet republic after its two staffers were kidnapped.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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