At least 20 members of Turkmenistan’s security forces were killed in clashes in the capital Ashgabat Sept. 12, according to to media reports and diplomatic sources. Police battled “a religious group, possibly radical Islamists,” according to a diplomatic source quoted by Gundogar.org, a website maintained by Boris Shikhmuradov, founder of Turkmenistan’s opposition Popular Democratic Movement. “Witnesses said that 20 police were killed and their bodies were taken in secret to an Ashkhabad hospital.” Information is strictly controlled in the former Soviet republic, and state media did not report on the violence.
Ashgabat is reportedly under curfew, with armored personnel carriers patrolling the streets. Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow-based reporter for the Vremya Novostei newspaper, told AFP that sources in Ashgabat reported of “tanks and armored vehicles opening fire on a drinking water factory” where militants were hiding. The US embassy in Ashgabat warned Americans to stay away from the northern districts of the city. (AlJazeera, Sept. 14)
On Sept. 14, Turkmenistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that “a criminal group involved in the illegal drug trade” had been “neutralized.” The ministry did not say whether there were any casualties, or if any traffickers had been detained. The statement made no reference to Islamist militants. (BBC, Sept. 14)