Tajiks in Afghan border area told to 'take up arms' amid fears of Taliban raids
Tajik authorities have told citizens along the country's southern border with Afghanistan to take up arms and be alert of potential attacks from Taliban militants, RFE/RL report.
The governor of Shamsiddin Shohin, a district of Tajikistan's southeastern Khatlon region, said that officials held meetings with residents to warn them of a possible threat from Afghan militant cross-border raids.
In a meeting earlier this month, Governor Pochokon Zarifzoda said that all hunters in border areas had been "registered".
"They [the hunters] will have to take up arms to defend our country. In fact, all of us will have to take up weapons if the situation dictates," he said.
Similar warnings have been issued in other parts of Tajikistan that lie close to the rugged, mountainous border, as fighting between the Afghan pro-government forces and Taliban insurgents have flared in recent months.
Dushanbe is concerned about the presence of Tajik nationals supporting the Afghan militants. Villages on the Tajik side of the border have seen sporadic cross-border gunfire and shelling.
It remains unclear how Tajikistan will train its prospective civilian fighting force.
On the other side, in the Nusai district of Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan province, two Tajik nationals reportedly died in clashes in late February.
The governor for the Afghan district identified the fighters by first name only, calling on Dushanbe to step up its fight against Tajik affiliates of the Taliban and the Islamic State group. Afghan officials have suggested some 200 Tajik militants fight in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan and Tajikistan share a 1,360 border. In December, Tajik forces were deployed along the border after reports emerged that Tajik insurgents had engaged Afghan forces in the Badakhshan district of Maymay.
In October, Tajikistan re-elected President Emomali Rahmon, who won 90 per cent of votes in a nationwide poll seen as largely ceremonial.
Authoritarian Rahmon has led the former Soviet republic for nearly three decades, having come to power during a devastating civil war during the 1990's that pitted government forces against a diverse opposition including Islamist fighters.
He has defined himself as the guarantor of the state's stability, while Human Rights Watch has described Tajikistan as having a "dire human rights situation".