DUSHANBE (Tajikistan), July 30 — Four tourists, including two Americans, were killed in Tajikistan by armed attackers in what was originally reported as a hit-and-run road accident, the Central Asian country’s interior minister said today.
“(The suspects) had knives and firearms,” minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda said of the attack yesterday that left tourists from the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands dead and two others injured.
The victims were cycling a popular route in the impoverished ex-Soviet nation, in a group with three other tourists from Switzerland, the Netherlands and France.
“One tourist received a knife wound and is being given medical assistance. The victim’s condition is stable,” said Rahimzoda, without mentioning nationality.
Another was being treated in hospital, while the French citizen survived without injury and had been questioned by the police, he added.
According to separate police accounts published on Sunday and Monday, at least four suspects have been detained and a further five killed in showdowns with law enforcement.
The Dutch foreign ministry told AFP today that one of the dead tourists was a 56-year-old man, who was cycling the route with his 58-year-old partner, without providing names.
The cyclists were travelling on a road that adjoins the famous Pamir Highway, a Soviet-era road surrounded by stunning mountain scenery.
‘Can’t say if act of terror’
“We are considering all possibilities,” Rahimzoda said of the criminal investigation at the Monday press conference.
“We can’t say if it is an act of terror,” he added.
However the minister said that “state institutions are being guarded... to provide safety for citizens and tourists”.
The US embassy in Tajikistan confirmed that two of the fatalities were American citizens.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon sent notes of condolence to the US, Switzerland and the Netherlands over the deaths.
The incident took place in Rakhmon’s home district of Danghara, 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of the capital Dushanbe.
One of the suspects killed by police was the 21-year-old owner of the Daewoo Leganza that struck the tourists on Sunday afternoon, Jafariddin Yusufov, who hails from the town of Nurek.
Tajik authorities had declared 2018 “a year of tourism.”
In June Rakhmon said that state officials found to be soliciting bribes from tourists would be fired from their positions as “traitors”.
Visitor numbers had quadrupled in the first five months of 2018 compared the same period last year, he said. Two years ago, the country introduced a simplified e-visa system for citizens of 80 countries.
Tajikistan is the poorest of the ex-Soviet republics and has been ruled by the iron hand of Rakhmon, 65, since 1992. — AFP