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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Resignations Damp Tajik Crisis

DUSHANBE -- Warlords started to meet their side of the bargain to end Tajikistan's crisis Monday by withdrawing troops to barracks and handing over weapons after top officials bowed to their demands and quit on Sunday.


The more powerful of the two warlords, who launched a near-bloodless rebellion 10 days ago, declared himself satisfied with the resignation of First Deputy Prime Minister Makhmadsayid Ubaidullayev and other aides to President Imomali Rakhmonov.


"All vehicles and troops have returned to barracks," a spokesman for army colonel Makhmoud Khudoyberdyev said by telephone from his base in the southern city of Kurgan-Tyube.


Khudoyberdyev's forces advanced last Thursday into the fringes of Dushanbe, threatening to plunge this former Soviet republic of 5.7 million into a repeat of its 1992 civil war.


By Monday, the troops had gone. Just a lieutenant remained at a checkpoint 30 kilometers from the capital waiting to hand over two tanks captured from the presidential guard.


Khudoyberdyev has offered to send his forces to help quell fighting in the Tavildara region, 200 kilometers east of Dushanbe, where Islamic insurgents who took over the area last year have launched fresh attacks.


A Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday that heavy fighting had broken out again on Monday in the area. Defense Minister Sherali Khairullayev, who survived calls for his head, said Sunday four government troops were killed last week.


No confirmation could be obtained as to whether a second warlord, Ibodullo Baimatov, had given up his weapons after taking over Tursunzade, 50 kilometers west of the capital.


Rakhmonov issued decrees Sunday at a late parliament session accepting the resignation of Ubaidullayev, his chief of staff and the governor of the region around Kurgan-Tyube.


Parliament adopted the resignations, conditional on the rebel warlords -- both from the country's large ethnic Uzbek community -- standing down and disarming by Wednesday.


The dispute centered on the natural resources which the two said had been monopolized by Rakhmonov's southern Kulyabi clan.


Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan and China, used to be the poorest Soviet republic. But it has two cash cows -- aluminum and cotton -- produced in the warlords' strongholds which used to be under Ubaidullayev's direct control.