May 21, 2014 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

Two killed in clashes with police in Tajikistan's east

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Two people in Tajikistan’s eastern city of Khorog were killed on Wednesday when police opened fire on a crowd that tried to storm a police station to free a local man held there and then went on to set fire to several government buildings, police said.

Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan region on the border with Afghanistan, saw days of fighting in 2012 between government troops and rebels after President Imomali Rakhmon vowed to punish local warlords for the killing of a security service general.

Gorno-Badakhshan has been at odds with Rakhmon for decades and his grip on the 250,000-strong region is weak. During the 1992-97 civil war, opposition commanders fought against Rakhmon from there, and since then the region has witnessed sporadic clashes between government forces and local warlords.

The man detained at the Khorog police building is the brother of a former warlord, a Tajik police source in the Tajik capital Dushanbe told Reuters, without saying why he had been arrested.

Three people were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, of which two later died, the police source said.

A group of around 50 or 60 protesters set fire to the city court, the police station and the local prosecutor’s office, the source said.

Sources in Khorog could not be reached by telephone.

“Now top security officials are holding a meeting. The talk is about sending riot police or other special forces to Khorog to put it in order,” the police source said.

Rakhmon, a 61-year-old former director of a state farm, has ruled the Central Asian nation of 8 million for more than two decades.

He extended his rule by another seven years last November, easily winning in an election which Western observers said lacked genuine choice.

With Moscow’s political and military support, Rakhmon’s secular government defeated Islamic guerrillas in the civil war which killed tens of thousands.

Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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