Russia says former Tajikistan Interior Ministry commander killed in Syria

Gulmurod Halimov

DUSHANBE (TCA) — The Russian Defense Ministry says it has killed four Islamic State (IS) commanders in an air strike targeting the extremist group outside Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour, including a former senior security official from Tajikistan, RFE/RL reported.

The ministry said in a September 8 statement that 40 militants were killed in the air strike, including Abu Muhammad al-Shimali, who is responsible for foreign IS fighters, and Gulmurod Halimov, a former Tajik Interior Ministry commander.

It said the air strike targeted a gathering of IS warlords in an underground bunker near Deir el-Zour.

“According to confirmed data, among the killed fighters are four influential field commanders,” the ministry said.

Halimov, often referred to as the IS “minister of war,” is a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s riot police, known as OMON, who had received U.S. training while serving in that position.

He made an online announcement in May 2015 that he had joined IS.

Tajikistan has issued an international warrant for his arrest, and the United States has offered $3 million for information on his whereabouts.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Halimov was present at the meeting of IS warlords and was fatally wounded in the air strike. It said he had been evacuated to the Al-Muhasan area, 20 kilometers southeast of Deir el-Zour.

There have been several unconfirmed reports from both northern Iraq and Syria since 2015 that Halimov was killed while fighting alongside IS forces.

Tajik authorities have repeatedly rejected those reports, saying they think he is still alive.

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Times of Central Asia