Tajik president agrees to talks; rebels release 5 hostages
February 16, 1997
Web posted at: 12:43 p.m. EST (1243 GMT)
(CNN) -- Tajik rebels released five of the 11 hostages they had been holding in their mountain
stronghold after Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov agreed to
hold direct talks with the rebels.
Rakhmonov is scheduled to meet with rebel leader Bakhrom
Sadirov on Monday at the village of Obigarm near the rebel
They are expected to discuss release of the remaining
hostages and possible safe passage for the rebels.
"Bakhrom said he was ready to negotiate directly with the
president and the president readily accepted the proposal,"
said Tajik government spokesman Zafar Saidov. He also said
Sadirov had assured the government he would not harm the
The rebels reportedly released two U.N. employees,
two Russian journalists and a Tajik interpreter. The Tajik
security minister, Saidamir Zukhorov, is among the six still
held by the rebels.
Zukhorov is expected to attend Monday's meeting between
Sadirov and Rakhmonov, Saidov said.
The Tajik government handed more than 30 rebel fighters to
Sadirov on Saturday, part of a deal that was to have
concluded with the release of the rebels' hostages. But
Sadirov did not release the hostages and broke off contact
They resumed contact with Russian diplomat Gennady Sizov,
serving as a mediator, who told Russian television that the
hostages "are in a very, very bad shape."
Sadirov, leader of a rogue rebel group, began the crisis on
February 4 when his followers seized a group of hostages and
demanded the government allow the return of his brother
Rizvon and about 40 of his men from Afghanistan. Rizvon has
since joined his brother.
Sadirov kidnapped Zukhorov last weekend while trying to
negotiate the release of the other hostages. The rebels
released four of their hostages -- two Russian journalists, a
driver, and an Austrian military observer -- earlier this
Reuters contributed to this report.
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