KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 18 January 2001

I. TAJIKISTAN: NO RESULTS YET FROM CHURCH BOMBING
INVESTIGATIONS. Nearly three weeks after the New Year's Eve bombing of
the Russian Orthodox and Adventist churches in the Tajik capital Dushanbe,
the Interior Ministry investigation has not so far come up with any results. The
Dushanbe city administration has been keen to deny any official anti-Christian
sentiment, and the bombings have been condemned by the Islamic Rebirth
Party of Tajikistan, but Christians remain concerned.

II. TAJIKISTAN: WERE LATEST BOMBINGS LINKED TO KOREAN
CHURCH ATTACK? 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.

I. TAJIKISTAN: NO RESULTS YET FROM CHURCH BOMBING
INVESTIGATIONS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Nearly three weeks after the New Year's Eve bombing of the Russian Orthodox
and Adventist churches in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, the Interior Ministry
investigation has not so far come up with any results, official and church
sources in Dushanbe have told Keston News Service. `Nothing concrete is
known about the reasons for the attack,' the Orthodox dean of Tajikistan, Father
Sergei Klimenko reported. `An investigation by the Interior Ministry and the
Security Ministry is underway and a criminal case has been launched, but no-
one has been arrested.' Adventist pastor Vladimir Mikhailov agreed. `So far the
investigation has not produced any results,' he told Keston. `No-one has
claimed responsibility, no-one has been arrested and the security agencies are
saying nothing.'

Saidjon Akhmedov, chairman of the government's Committee on Religious
Affairs, confirmed that the investigation had so far produced no results.
`Nothing is yet known,' he told Keston on 18 January. `The investigation being
conducted by the Interior Ministry will discover who was behind these actions.'

A bomb reported to have been the equivalent of 250 to 300 grams of TNT
exploded at about 7.30 in the evening of 31 December next to Father Sergei's
church, the St Nicholas Cathedral. `There were no victims, thank God, and
there was more noise than damage,' Father Sergei told Keston by telephone on
18 January. The bomb destroyed two buildings annexed to the church and blew
out windows in the Sunday school and baptistry of the church. `The repairs
were minor and cost some 300 to 400 US dollars, mainly repairing two doors
and broken windows.' Father Sergei stressed that the bomb attack had not
interrupted worship in his church. `The bomb went off after we had finished our
service, and the liturgy began as scheduled the following morning at eight
o'clock.' He had received no threats ahead of the bombing.

The bomb at the Adventist church exploded within minutes of that at the
Orthodox church, destroying the gates and fence and partly damaging the wall
and windows both in the church building itself and in the pastor's house across
the street. As with the attack on the Orthodox church, there were no injuries.
`All the security organs came, interrogated witnesses, church members and
neighbours and collected statements,' Pastor Mikhailov told Keston by
telephone on 18 January.

A spokesman for the security ministry - who refused to give his name - said he
had no information about the results of the investigation. `The interior ministry
is conducting the investigation,' he said, referring Keston to them. No-one
answered the phone at the press centre of the Interior Ministry in Dushanbe on
18 January.

The Dushanbe city administration has been keen to deny any official anti-
Christian sentiment. `It should be stressed that the Dushanbe administration has
not taken, and will not take, any measures to hinder the activities of the various
religious organisations,' a statement issued on 9 January declared. The
administration, citing believers' rights spelled out in the Tajik constitution and
the country's religion law, said it `guarantees freedom of conscience and the
peaceful coexistence of the various religions and confessions'. It stressed that a
criminal case had been launched into last October's bombing of the Korean-led
Grace Sonmin church, adding that the perpetrators have been taken into custody
(see separate KNS article). `The Dushanbe administration is doing its best to
ensure peaceful interaction between all religious confessions in the capital and
does not need local and foreign advisers who sow discord in society.'

The Islamic Rebirth Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) `resolutely condemned' both the
October and December bombings. `The IRPT considers these explosions to be
the work of enemies of peace, stability, national reconciliation and security in
Tajikistan,' the party's spokesman, Sulton Hamad, told Iranian radio from
Dushanbe on 3 January. `These explosions were aimed at stirring up discord
among followers of various religious sects which are active in Tajikistan.'

However, Adventist leaders remain concerned. `We'd like to believe that this
was a lonely splash of terrorism against Christian presence in the city,' Pastor
Aleksandr Shvarts, president of the Adventists' Southern Union regional
territory, told Adventist News Network from the union headquarters in Almaty,
Kazakhstan. `This may be viewed as a threatening act to show that Christians
should not feel comfortable in this area.' Pastor Mikhailov told Keston that in
the wake of the bombing the security agencies had warned the church to
exercise caution.

Father Sergei reported that the Russian Orthodox have six churches in
Tajikistan, with a further two under construction. The Adventists report that
their damaged church is one of two in Dushanbe, with 400 church members in
the two congregations. There are also small Adventist congregations in other
parts of the country. (END)


II. TAJIKISTAN: WERE LATEST BOMBINGS LINKED TO KOREAN
CHURCH ATTACK?

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

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)


Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.