At least 15 masked attackers have been killed and four others captured after a group of fighters attacked a border checkpoint in Tajikistan, killing a border guard and a policeman, according to authorities.
The border guard service, in a statement on Wednesday, blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) armed group for the attack. There was no immediate announcement from ISIL, which has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in Tajikistan, including the killing of foreign cyclists last year.
Tajikistan’s National Security Committee said the incident took place overnight on Wednesday on the border with Uzbekistan, some 50km (30 miles) southwest of the capital, Dushanbe.
“As a result of an operation conducted by law enforcement forces, 15 members of an armed criminal group were neutralised and four more attackers detained,” the country’s interior ministry said.
The committee and interior ministry released photographs, showing badly burned bodies in black military-style outfits, lying on the ground next to wrecked cars.
The attackers crossed into Tajikistan’s southern Qabodiyon district from Afghanistan overnight on Sunday and scouted possible targets for the assault, officials said, citing intelligence obtained from the interrogation of detainees.
The committee said the fighters seized five assault rifles during the attack. The interior ministry said four of the attackers’ vehicles were destroyed in the shoot-out.
The authorities did not elaborate on the identities of those killed or detained.
The Central Asian country has been on the front line of the global war on illegal drugs as tonnes of heroin, opium and cannabis are smuggled from neighbouring Afghanistan every year.
Drug smuggling accounts for almost a third of Tajikistan’s economy, some international reports estimate.