Tajikistan‘s government has accused a banned opposition party of being behind the deadly attack that left four tourists dead on Sunday after an earlier claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
In a statement on Tuesday, the interior ministry blamed the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) for the attack.
The party’s exiled leaders denied any link to the attack and said the authorities were using the incident for political purposes.
The four tourists were killed when a car ploughed into them as they cycled on a rural road. After the crash, the attackers also stabbed their victims, Tajikistan’s interior minister and the US embassy said on Monday.
Security forces killed four suspected attackers on Monday and detained one. On Tuesday, the interior ministry said police had detained four other suspects.
The IRPT denied the allegation in a statement to Reuters news agency.
“We completely deny the illogical allegation by the interior ministry and condemn this terrorist act,” IRPT leader-in-exile Muhiddin Kabiri told Reuters by telephone. “This [statement] draws the attention away from the real criminals.”
On Monday, IRPT issued a statement expressing its condolences to the families and countries of the victims. The statement added that they hope an investigation into the “accident” would “refute rumours and assumptions” as well as restore trust in Tajikistan for its people and tourists.
The allegation comes after ISIL, on Monday, claimed a “detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate” carried out the attack against “citizens of Crusader coalition countries” without offering details or evidence of their involvement.
The New York Times reported that the choice of wording in the ISIL statement suggests the organisation believes the attack was inspired by their propaganda, but did not directly deploy the attackers.
The IRPT was banned in Tajikistan in 2015 and was accused of “extremism” and plotting a failed coup. Exiled party leaders have denied such allegations and said they were aimed at strengthening President Emomali Rahmon’s grip on power.
Mirzorahim Kuzov, a senior member of the party, told Al Jazeera in late 2017 that “everything Tajikistan’s government says about the IRPT or about me is a lie, slander.”