TAJIKISTAN: Were Latest Bombings Linked to Korean Church Attack?

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 18 January 2001

Speculation has been rife that the New Year's Eve bomb attacks on an Orthodox and an Adventist church in the Tajik capital Dushanbe (see separate KNS article) were connected to the much more serious bombing of the Korean-led Grace Sonmin church last October, which killed nine and injured more than 70, many of them severely (see KNS 24 October 2000). Three Islamic students have been in prison under investigation since last October suspected of carrying out that attack, but they have not yet been brought to trial.

The Dushanbe administration in a statement of 9 January specifically rejected such claims that the latest bombings were lined to the Grace Sonmin attack. Both Father Sergei Klimenko, the Orthodox dean of Tajikistan, and Adventist pastor Vladimir Mikhailov told Keston News Service that there was no evidence so far that the two attacks were linked to the Grace Sonmin bombing.

Saidjon Akhmedov, chairman of the government's Committee on Religious Affairs, declined to speculate on any linkage. `There is no connection yet. The investigation will take place first, then it will be determined if these events were linked,' he told Keston on 18 January.

In the absence of the head of the press department (who is on leave for the next twenty days), a security ministry spokesman in Dushanbe was unable to tell Keston of the results of the investigation into the Grace Sonmin attack, nor to confirm whether the ministry believes the latest attacks were related to that attack. No-one answered the phone at the press centre of the Interior Ministry in Dushanbe on 18 January.

Akhmedov confirmed that three suspects are still in custody under suspicion of involvement in the Grace Sonmin bombing, but declined to say more about them as they had not yet been brought to trial. Asked why no trial had taken place given that the bombing had occurred three and a half months ago, Akhmedov declared: `Such crimes are difficult to investigate. Three months is an insignificant time.' He pointed out that the investigation in Moscow into the 1994 murder of the journalist Dmitri Kholodov went on for six years.

Citing church sources, the US-based news service Compass Direct reported that there were four bombs set at the Grace Sonmin church, although only two exploded. The two bombs that failed to detonate were located on the stairway landing of the third floor and out in the garden.

Although police initially declined to name the suspects arrested in October, two were later identified as Mustafo Boimuradov and Sadridin Fathudinov. The name of the third has not been released. All three were fourth-year students at the Dushanbe Islamic Institute. According to Col. Abdurakhman Rustamov, head of the crime-control unit in the Interior Ministry, about 300 individuals were interrogated in the course of the investigation. He said the three accused were also charged with killing one person and injuring another in two other bombings in the country. Officials believe others were involved as well. (END)