DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s northern neighbour Tajikistan will tighten security in the run-up to the Afghan presidential election next month, Tajik Interior Ministry said on Wednesday after detaining three Islamist militants.
The Aug. 20 presidential poll, the second in Afghanistan’s short history as a democracy, will take place at a time when violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were forced from power in 2001.
“The situation at the Afghan border may deteriorate ahead of the elections as coalition forces and Afghanistan’s own security forces will seek to keep the whole country under control and different criminal groups may try to seek temporary refuge in neighbouring countries including ours,” Interior Minister Abdurakhim Qahorov said.
Speaking to journalists in the capital Dushanbe, he said Tajik police and border guards in the area would be reinforced.
“We will not allow any infiltration or breaching of our state border,” Qahorov said.
The ex-Soviet republic has been engaged in a series of gunfights this month which it described as clashes with drug trafficking gangs of the Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
Separately, a Tajik security source said Tajik forces had detained three IMU militants on the Afghan border on suspicion of planning acts of terrorism.
“On Monday July 20 a group of three men was detained and they, according to our information, were planning several acts of terrorism in Tajikistan,” said the source.
“All three of them are active members of the IMU who took part in fights against coalition forces in Afghanistan and arrived in Tajikistan on an order of IMU head Takhir Yuldashev.”
As part of the operation police seized guns, explosives and communication devices in an apartment rented by the suspects in the capital Dushanbe, the source said.
Tajikistan’s Central Asian neighbours Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have also blamed several attacks and gunfights within the last few months on the IMU, a group founded in the 1990s.
Western security analysts say the IMU was largely wiped out during U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan but some have pointed to a possible rise in its activity alongside a parallel resurgence in Taliban operations.