Four tourists on a bicycle tour, including two Americans, one Swiss and one Dutch national, were slaughtered in southern Tajikistan Sunday. Three others were injured. The first reports were that it was a hit-and-run driving accident. But Monday, video and new reports indicate not only were they mowed down by a vehicle, or vehicles, after being struck, the victims were attacked with “knives and firearms,” Tajik minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda told international media.
None of the victims have been named as of Monday morning.
According to reports from Radio Free Europe and other media, the attack, which has not been ruled out as an act of terror, “left tourists from the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands dead and two others injured.”
RFE quoted government officials who said: “The driver and passengers of a car that hit the foreign tourists, [then] got out of the car and attacked [the cyclists] with firearms and knives.” A witness told RFE that “one of the injured cyclists told him that people jumped out of the car after hitting the cyclists and started stabbing them.”
There was chatter Monday afternoon that the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility.
RFE reported that the IS news group Amaq published the claim of responsibility for the attack. Translated as, the men that perpetrated the attack “were soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries.”
The group was on a cycling tour in the rugged, mountainous countryside of the Central Asian nation bordered by China, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, described as an “impoverished ex-Soviet nation.”
One of the surviving tourists was stabbed. That person is being treated and is in stable condition, but authorities provided no further details including nationality. Another, a French citizen withe the group, “survived without injury and was being questioned by the police,” it was reported.
Also Sunday, it was first reported that there was just one suspect, a 21-year-old man, in custody. Some Tajik’s on social media had hinted any suspect would be shot immediately. It turns out officials now confirm that two suspects were shot and killed after allegedly resisting arrest. Authorities are hunting other possible perpetrators in the attack.
“In Tajikistan, if you kill foreign cyclists with your car and flee the scene while leaving behind your license plate, police special forces will be at your house within a couple of hours to kill you dead.”
Rahimzoda said that authorities are “considering all possibilities” in the investigation adding “We can’t say if it is an act of terror” but admitted “state institutions are being guarded…to provide safety for citizens and tourists.”
Local police released the names and photos of suspects. Two were killed when trying to “resist arrest.” Based on the translated statements and media Tajik and regional reports the suspects still at large have a bounty on their heads.
“To find these three suspects, the High Court promises a big bonus.” “the person who is assisting in determining this person will be rewarded with large sums of money and money.” “If information about the (suspects) is guaranteed and they will be rewarded with a large amount of premium payment for submission of reliable data.”
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe confirmed the deaths of American citizens.
“Due to privacy concerns, we are unable to share further details. Our condolences go out to the victims’ families, and we will continue to work with Tajik authorities in the ongoing investigation,” the Facebook statement reads in part.
Monday, the Embassy issued an alert and caution for American in country to be cautious. It also confirmed new details including that Tajik police killed three suspects.
“(suspects) hit seven foreign cyclists with their vehicle, exited the car, and stabbed the cyclists with knives. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has detained one suspect and killed at least three other suspects.
As of now, the U.S. Embassy has no evidence that indicates a heightened level of threat to U.S. citizens. We encourage U.S. citizens to maintain awareness of their surroundings and take the precautions recommended below.
Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims. We condemn the senseless attack. Because of privacy concerns, we are unable to share further details about the U.S. citizens.
The Embassy commends Tajik authorities on their professional and quick response to the incident, and we will continue to work closely with them on the ongoing investigation.”
The attack happened in an area called Danghara, which is around 90 miles south of that land-locked nation’s capital, Dushanbe.
The U.K. warns its citizens that “Terrorist attacks in Tajikistan can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
Reportedly, this is a statement that was made by Pres. Donald Trump in a communication with Tajik President Rahmon.
“We sincerely thank President Rahmon and the people of Tajikistan for their expressions of deep sympathy to the families of the victims. We strongly condemn the cruelty of the attackers and recognize that they in no way represent the kindness and hospitality of the Tajik people.”
The U.S. State Department has not addressed the attack on its Tajikistan web pages.
This is a developing story.