Six soldiers killed in Tajikistan


Six soldiers have been killed by a land mine in Tajikistan.

At least three other solders were wounded in the explosion yesterday in Tajikistan's Rasht valley, a high-ranking military official said on condition of anonymity.

The mine blast occurred hours after the crash of a military helicopter in the same area that military sources said killed 28 servicemen. Officials said the crash was an accident.

Tajik government forces entered the Rasht district on September 22ndin a strike against insurgents blamed by state security officials for an attack on a convoy of government forces that killed 28 soldiers three days earlier.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), whose exiled members have fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, later claimed responsibility for the convoy attack, calling it retaliation for a government crackdown on Islam.

Government authorities said that six soldiers and 16 insurgents had been killed to date in Rasht, about 180km east of the capital, Dushanbe.

Analysts say chronic poverty and a Soviet-style crackdown on religion have spurred the growth of radical Islam in Tajikistan and former Soviet republics in mostly Muslim Central Asia.

Long-time President Imomali Rakhmon's government has jailed more than 100 members of banned groups this year in its battle against Islamist radicalism. Critics say the government exaggerates the threat as a pretext to target opponents.