General Nazarzoda
Former deputy defence minister Abulhalim Nazarzoda along with his radical Islamist supporters have been accused of attacking govenment buildings in what is being seen as a coup

Special forces in Tajikistan have launched a massive manhunt for the country's former deputy defence minister, Abulhalim Nazarzoda, after he along with his radical Islamist supporters launched an attack against the government in a failed coup attempt. At least 22 people have been reportedly killed in the armed struggle.

Since Friday (4 September) Tajikistan has been embroiled in conflict after the 51-year-old General Nazarzoda and his radical Islamist supporters launched an attack at Vahdat's internal affairs department and on the central government building in Dushanbe. 

General Nazarzoda was reportedly sacked for "a crime", but he refused to step down and instead decided to launch the attack against the government. Reports claim that General Nazarzoda has been accused of supporting armed unrest in  Vahdat and Dushanbe.

At least 22 people have been killed since Friday, according to SwissInfo. The Tajik government said that among those killed were nine policemen, while the rest 13 were rebels.

Police and Tajik special forces on Saturday said that they were now closing in on the sacked deputy defence minister, who is said to be hiding in Ramit Gorge some 150 km from Dushanbe.

The armed struggle has once again brought the divide between the pro-Moscow secular government and Islamist opposition groups in Tajikistan out in the open. In the last one year, dozens of Tajiks have joined the Islamist radical group Isis in Syria and Iraq.

In a statement, Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon called the attacks a "mutiny" aimed at destabilising the democratic structure of the government. He even accused the supporters of General Nazarzoda of collaborating with the "Islamic State" terrorist group, Russian state news agency - Interfax reported.

The development comes months after Tajikistan's special forces chief - Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov appeared in an Isis propaganda video and announced that he had joined the terror group.

Gulmurod Khalimov, a distinguished officer, had gone missing sometime in April and he surfaced in May in an Isis video declaring his allegiance to Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Also read