Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Tajikistan

Overview: Tajikistan continued to prioritize counterterrorism efforts in 2017. The majority of Tajik domestic counterterrorism activities conducted in 2017 targeted organizations and individuals allegedly linked to violent Islamist extremism in Tajikistan, but the government also arrested terrorist suspects returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, and Syria. According to public sources, approximately 1,300 Tajik citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS since 2015. The government viewed northern Afghanistan as the primary potential source of terrorist activity, and continued to take steps to strengthen its border defense capabilities. Tajikistan has been willing to engage with the United States on counterterrorism issues.

Terrorist Incidents:

  • On January 30, an explosive device detonated on the outskirts of the city of Qurghon‑teppa (now called Bokhtar). The blast damaged a vehicle but the vehicle’s owner was not hurt. No one claimed responsibility for the explosion.
  • On March 12, four men in the southern city of Bokhtar planted an explosive device near the military prosecutor’s office. A 67-year-old man who worked as a guard at the technological lyceum located next door to the military prosecutor’s office picked up the device which exploded in his hands, killing him. The perpetrators of this attack were involved in prior terrorism-related incidents including attempted recruiting for ISIS.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Tajikistan adopted the Law on Combating Terrorism in 1999, and has since made a series of amendments, including one in 2017. The government has used this counterterrorism legislation to suppress independent voices, including journalists, opposition figures, and representatives of peaceful religious groups.

In late 2016, Tajikistan published its “National Strategy on Countering Extremism and Terrorism of the Republic of Tajikistan for 2016-2020.” The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) have primary responsibility for counterterrorism in the country and also have the greatest resources. These two organizations are tasked with detection, prevention, and deterrence of terrorist acts, but do not always work well together. Cooperation and information sharing were sometimes hampered by interagency competition to curry favor with the country’s leadership, but the published national strategy seeks to improve this situation. The GKNB and MVD both have dedicated special tactical units that handle active counterterrorism actions; both units have received training and equipment from the United States, the Russian Federation, and China.

Tajikistan has developed specific plans for the protection of soft targets, and the U.S. embassy sees frequent evidence of city- and nation-wide drills to exercise these plans. These plans appear to cover critical national infrastructure, foreign diplomatic missions, and state agencies, but may not be comprehensive enough to cover major hotels, stadiums, or cultural sites.

Travel document security and biographic and biometric screening capabilities are lacking at ports of entry, particularly land crossings. Major entry points have access to INTERPOL data and other lists, but connectivity at smaller border posts is lacking. Although Dushanbe International Airport does have some biometric capability, this is not in full use. A recent Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance program capabilities assessment noted aging equipment in need of repair or replacement, and simple visual matching of face to passport photo by Border Guards officers is the primary method of identity confirmation. The Border Guards database was not linked to databases of other law enforcement agencies, and only in Dushanbe International Airport are photos taken of visitors; such capability does not yet exist at land border crossings. Tajikistan does maintain an extensive “wanted” list of citizens believed to have joined ISIS and other terrorist organizations, and this list is readily available online. Tajikistan regularly updates its Red Notice requests with INTERPOL.

On July 21, the Minister of Internal Affairs stated that Tajik law enforcement authorities prevented 12 terrorist acts in the country in the first six months of 2017 and detained 228 Tajik citizens for involvement in terrorist organizations.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The laws of Tajikistan provide for criminal penalties for crimes associated with money laundering and terrorist financing. Tajikistan’s Financial Monitoring Department, is a member of the Egmont Group. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): At the end of 2016 Tajikistan completed its national strategy for CVE. The government’s strategy, designed for implementation from 2016 to 2020, is a whole of government approach to combat radicalization to violence in Tajik society. The Tajik government worked closely with the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe to craft the strategy and called a public meeting in September 2017 to ask for the support of the international community in its funding and implementation. The government has supported the implementation of U.S.-sponsored community-policing programs. Additionally, representatives of Tajikistan’s Ulema Council, including the chairman of the council, took part in religious meetings in Russia with Tajik labor migrants to allay fears expressed by the head of the Muslim Spiritual Board (MSB) of Russia, mufti Albir Krganov of Moscow, about the danger of radicalization among Tajik migrants.

Tajikistan amended its criminal laws in 2015, allowing authorities to pardon Tajik fighters who voluntarily return home from Iraq or Syria and renounce foreign militant groups. This is not a blanket amnesty and applies only to those who have not taken part in violence. Some 100 Tajik nationals have since returned from Syria and Iraq. Those pardoned remained on government watch lists but were not legally prevented from applying for jobs, enrolling in universities, or traveling abroad.

In an effort to counter what it considers “extremism,” the government has placed multiple restrictions on forms of political and religious expression and groups it classifies as “extremist.” In 2016, Tajikistan was designated a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

International and Regional Cooperation: Tajikistan is an active participant in regional security arrangements like the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Tajikistan held military exercises in May with Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center as part of an event named Dushanbe-Anti-Terror 2017. In October 2017, Russia’s 201st Motorized Rifle Division military base (which has garrisons in the cities of Dushanbe and Bokhtar) conducted counterterrorism exercises in Tajikistan that included repelling a simulated terrorists attack on the base’s facilities.