2015-05-14 10:02:00

Tajik riot police commander may be fighting with Islamic State in Syria - sources

Dushanbe, May 14, Interfax - A commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry's OMON riot police, Col. Gulmurod Khalimov, has left the country and is fighting alongside the Islamic State extremist organization in Syria, sources in Tajikistan's law enforcement agencies told Interfax on Thursday.

Khalimov is believed to have left Tajikistan for Moscow on May 1, and on May 2 the Tajik officer boarded a Turkey-bound flight at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, apparently seeking to reach Syria via Turkey.

"Khalimov simply got obsessed with this Islamic State earlier this year. He kept reading online articles about their ideology, started disputes with his colleagues and tried to persuade them that the truth is on their [Islamic State] side," one of the OMON commander's colleagues told Interfax on condition of anonymity.

"He even offered going to Syria to support Islamic State," he said.

A source in Tajik special services confirmed the suggestion that Khalimov had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State there.

"And he was not alone. He gathered about a dozen single-minded persons," the source said.

At the same time, official representatives of Tajikistan's Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies have declined to comment on Khalimov's current whereabouts.

When asked by reporters about Khalimov's departure from Tajikistan, the country's Deputy Interior Minister Ikrom Umarzoda said that he "knows nothing about it."

Khalimov, who has commanded Tajikistan's OMON riot police since 2012, holds several state awards.

Tajik resident Farrukh Sharifov told reporters in Dushanbe on Monday that he had fought alongside Islamic State in Syria, but had grown disillusioned with this group and had voluntarily returned to Tajikistan.

According to Tajik special services, up to 200 Tajik citizens are fighting on the side of Islamic State today. At least 40 Tajik people have been confirmed killed.