32 dead, including ISIS militants, in Tajikistan prison riot

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AFP) - A riot at a prison in Tajikistan has left 32 people dead, including 24 members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group and three guards, authorities said on Monday (May 20).

Five of the inmates and the three guards were killed by ISIS prisoners during the riot that erupted on Sunday evening, the justice ministry said in a statement.

The prison in Vakhdat, 17 kilometres east of the capital Dushanbe, holds 1,500 inmates.

It said the prisoners first stabbed to death three guards, and then five other inmates "in order to intimidate" the others.

They then took other prisoners hostage before opening fire on the jail's medical facilities.

"Following a reprisal operation, 24 members of this group were killed and 25 others arrested. The hostages were freed" and calm restored to the prison, the statement said.

Among the leaders of the riot, the Tajik authorities identified the 20-year-old son of the former head of Tajik special forces who became a member of the ISIS leadership in Syria, where he was killed in September 2017.

In November 2018, another riot claimed by ISIS left 26 people dead in Khujand, a city of 700,000 people in the north-east of the country.

The riot had been initiated by a former ISIS member seeking to spark a mass escape.

Tajikistan, a country of 8.5 million people bordering Afghanistan, has suffered severe conflict since it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Tens of thousands of people were killed in the country during a five-year civil war in the 1990s when rebel groups including Islamists rose up against the government.

Authorities in the majority-Muslim country have said that more than 1,000 Tajiks, including a high-ranking police officer who defected in 2015, joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq in recent years.

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