Tajikistan: Blast in the Dushanbe – Plot or Not?

Last week the bomb explosion frightened the whole population of Tajikistan, killing one person. As Josh Foust of Registan reports, early in the morning – at around 8 a.m., Dushanbe time, a poor street cleaner picked up a plastic bag, which exploded in his hands. It happened near the administrative venue “Kohi Vahdat”, not far from the Presidential Palace. “Kohi Vahdat” is a popular place for holding big conferences, including international ones. It is also close to the Uzbek embassy, commercial First MicroFinance Bank, prestigious Hotel Avesto and some other important buildings, but the people's attention was focused solely on the President's Palace.

As usually, the person killed by the blast supposed to have no links to the bomb itself. If it happened one hour later, the number of victims would have been higher, mostly comprised by the participants of the Regional Meeting for Environmental Risk Reduction in Central Asia, organized by the European Commission. The event was moved to another venue, but already in the afternoon the participants – representatives of international organizations and higher state officials – got back to “Kohi Vahdat” after the police finished the on-site investigation. Some experts assume that the bomb could have been addressed to the governmental officials and, more likely, to Prime Minister Okil Okilov.

Most of the news agencies reported that this explosion happened “somewhere close to Presidential Palace” without mentioning the exact place, somehow implying that the bomb was prepared for a particular person. Ian from Beyond the River made a translation of Rama’s post from neweurasia:

Dushanbe is a relatively peaceful city… Who would need to destabilize the situation in the country? Islamists, who are being kept down? Opposition, which doesn’t really even exist? I don’t think so. None of them would have taken such a stupid step. Maybe it’s a political game – a technique to restrain dissatisfaction of the popuilation? It’s highly possible. Tajikistan today is experiencing an unstoppable rise in prices for food products and an unprecedented bounce of inflation (12.4 per cent). That’s why it could be necessary to distract the people and the press from real problems by organizing a so-called “terror attack”.

Later on Ian updated his post by adding a link to Eurasianet article and taking a quote.

“Any authoritarian ruler needs an external threat. It’s always nice when there is an insidious enemy.”

–Alexei Malashenko, Carnegie Center Moscow

On the next day after the explosion I wrote another post about another blast threat, which later appeared to be a training. The police wanted to test the security awareness of the population. In this regard, Ataman Rakin comments that the bomb explosion in Dushnbe was just a…

…‘let’s-scare-the-stupid-foreigners-so-that-we-can-sell-our-terrorism-problem’ performance.
Same with those who tried to put Saipov’s murder on the Hizb-ut-Tahrir recently. An EU conference is a soft target, contrary to U.S. facilities who are more heavily guarded. A friend who was on the site just after the supposed ‘terakt’ [terror attack] saw neither a corpse nor blood of the floor.

Nikita Smekaev from the Moskovskiy Komsomolets Blog links to one of the Russian websites, where Alexei Vlasov, Deputy Head of the History Department at the Moscow State University, said:

“The explosion in Dushanbe shows a bundle of contradictions. A week ago it was reported that Tajik president Emomali Rahmon is ill, as if for several weeks he was on treatment in a hospital in some Western country. This explosion can be put in one line with the recent assassination attempt against the Minister of Defense. The blast, defined as a terror attack, can be a consequence of internal discord in the Rahmon’s team concerning the issue of his successor”.

An author from Coffee with Mark Towhey thinks that this kind of explosions happen more often in London than in Dushanbe:

“The fact is that this type of explosion is extremely unusual for Dushanbe. Frankly, it happens more often in London than here. What’s very interesting about this bomb, and the few others that have happened over the years (from what my colleagues have told me) is that, although the government is very quick to pin them on “Islamist terrorists”, no group ever claims credit. Although it would be hard for such a group to claim credit in a Tajik newspaper — they are not exactly icons to journalistic freedom — it would be dead easy to drop an email to BBC or Reuters.

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