Tajikistan's Justice Ministry said three prison guards and 29 inmates were killed in a riot that broke out in a maximum-security prison, the second deadly prison clashes to hit the the country in the last six months.
The ministry said five of the inmates were killed by rioters, while 24 others were 'liquidated' during the authorities' "measures to quell" the riot, which occurred late on May 19 in the Vahdat district, some 15 kilometers east of the capital, Dushanbe.
The ministry said in a statement on May 20 that the clashes started when some 30 inmates convicted of membership in various militant groups, including the Islamic State (IS), killed three prison guards.
The ministry said the inmates were armed with knives and other sharp objects.
The statement said that one of the leaders of the rioters was Behruz Gulmurod, the eldest son of Gulmurod Halimov, a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's special forces who joined Islamic State in 2015.
In 2016, the U.S. State Department named Halimov as a key member of IS and offered a $3 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
The statement said the rioters set the prison's medical unit on fire, took several inmates hostage, and attacked guards, while trying to escape.
The ministry statement said that during efforts to "quell the riot...35 inmates were captured and the hostages released," but didn't provide any details.
The statement added that the situation was now under control and that an investigation has been launched into the riot.
The websites of the Tajik opposition abroad reported that there were many casualties among the inmates. They reported that Zayed Saidov - a businessman and leader of the unregistered opposition New Tajikistan party, who is serving a 26-year prison sentence in the prison in Vahdat - was not harmed during the riots.
Saidov was convicted in December 2013 of financial fraud, polygamy, and sexual relations with a minor.
The wives of several prisoners who were in a separate block of the facility for conjugal visits said they heard gunshots around 9 p.m. local time. They said gunfire lasted for around 30 minutes.
Vahdat residents said they witnessed several ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks driving toward the prison.
In November, a riot broke out in a maximum-security prison in the northern city of Khujand. Officials said 21 prisoners and two prison guards were killed in that incident.
Government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL at the time that suspected IS supporters convicted of religious extremism and terrorism were behind the unrest.
With reporting by Reuters
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