Asia Crisis

Gunmen attack police post in Tajikistan

(Changes source, details)

DUSHANBE, July 9 (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen have opened fire on a police post in Tajikistan near its border with Afghanistan, a senior Tajik security source said on Thursday, the latest in a string of attacks across Central Asia.

Authorities have linked the recent attacks in the impoverished Muslim region, formerly part of the Soviet Union, to growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The source said a group of up to 15 men attacked a checkpoint near Tavildara, a town tucked away in the Pamir mountains just 20 km (12.5 miles) from the Afghan border.

"We don't know who they were," the source told Reuters. "They could be criminals, drug smugglers and also they could be militants from certain extremist organisations, but we cannot say for sure which ones."

Tavildara was at the heart of Islamist-led resistance to Tajikistan's Russia-backed government in the 1990s during a brutal civil war which left more than 100,000 people dead.

Asia-Plus news agency reported earlier that several attackers were injured but managed to escape.

Tajikistan's interior ministry said it could not immediately comment on the report. Governments in Central Asia have blamed the latest surge in violence on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group whose militants have long fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In one of the latest attacks, Kyrgyz security forces killed three men they said were members of the group in a gun battle in Ferghana valley, Central Asia's most densely populated area. (Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)