MOSCOW (AP) - The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a car-and-knife attack on Western tourists cycling in Tajikistan that killed two Americans and two Europeans.
Officials in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation didn’t publicly address the IS claim and instead blamed the Sunday attack on a banned local Islamist group. The young men featured in an IS-linked video resembled the individuals that Tajik authorities identified as attack suspects who were later killed by police.
The Islamic State group said in a statement late Monday that several of its soldiers attacked the “citizens of the Crusader coalition.”
The four tourists were killed when a car rammed into a group of foreigners on bicycles south of the capital of Dushanbe, Tajik officials have said. The driver and the passengers then got out and attacked the cyclists with knives.
Two of the victims were American, one was Swiss and the fourth was from the Netherlands, foreign and Tajik officials said. The three people injured included a woman from Switzerland.
A video posted on an IS-linked website Tuesday shows five men sitting on a hill against the backdrop of a black-and-white IS flag and declaring allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The men say they’re from Tajikistan and pledge to slaughter disbelievers in the name of Allah. A note accompanying the video said the men took part in the weekend attack.
Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry posted photos Tuesday of what it said were the bodies of four suspected attackers lying dead in a field. Three of the men resemble ones in the IS video.
It blamed the attack on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, a local party banned several years ago for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Tajikistan, an impoverished, predominantly Muslim nation of some 8 million people, was devastated by a 5-year civil war with Islamist-inspired rebel forces that ended in 1997.
Alarmed by the rise of the Islamic State group in recent years, Tajik authorities have clamped down on behavior and traditions associated with Islam, regulating how people dress and behave at funerals and ordering men to shave their beards. Critics say the restrictions could help radicalize secular Muslims.
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