Tajikistan: At least 50 inmates were killed in prison riot, sources say

DUSHANBE (TCA) — At least 50 inmates were killed in a prison riot in Tajikistan last week, sources have told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, doubling the death toll in violence that the government has said almost nothing about publicly.

The sources — officials in a state entity who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject — showed RFE/RL a list of at least 50 inmates they said were killed in the riot that erupted late on November 7.

An RFE/RL correspondent who was shown the list on November 12 was not permitted to take a picture of it.

Sources close to the government and law enforcement told RFE/RL earlier that at least 24 people, including two prison guards, were killed in the unrest at a prison in the northern city of Khujand.

Relatives of some of the inmates who were killed have told RFE/RL that their loved ones were being buried in the presence of police and security officers, without traditional Islamic funeral-prayer ceremonies.

They said family members were not being permitted to lift the shrouds wrapping the deceased.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, saying the riot broke out after one of its “soldiers” attacked a prison guard.

State-connected sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL on November 9 that suspected IS supporters convicted of religious extremism and terrorism were behind the unrest.

Almost six days after the violence, there was still no official statement from the Tajik government.

The local administration in Khujand — some 300 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe — has confirmed there was a riot but offered no further information.

The penitentiary — high-security prison No. 3/3 — largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism, extremism, and other serious crimes.

RFE/RL’s sources have said many of the inmates there were convicted of membership or affiliation with groups that the Central Asian country’s government has banned as extremist, including IS, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and others.

Sergey Kwan