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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajik Warlord-Trader Lowers Guns, for Now

TURSUNZADE, Tajikistan -- One of the two mutinous warlords who massed armed men against the government last week had disarmed and sent his men home by Wednesday, but he threatened further armed action if the government does not meet its promises.

Ibodullo Boimatov, a self-styled warlord and export-import wheeler-dealer, was at home in his gilt-decorated apartment Wednesday looking relaxed and happy.

For 15 days he and some 1,000 men had occupied the Tursunzade hotel, parking two tanks and two armored vehicles and anti-aircraft guns on a truck in the forecourt. His men handed in their arms to a government commission Tuesday, he said, and he gave the heavy armor to his fellow rebel, Makhmoud Khudoberdiyev, who commands the first brigade in Kurgan-Tyube south of the capital. "We are sitting at home," he said Wednesday.

The Tajik government had met his demands "partially," he said. "We are still waiting. We gave in our arms and we are waiting for the rest to be decided."

Boimatov and Khudoberdiyev both agreed to disarm after President Imomali Rakhmonov sacked three members of his cabinet. Boimatov said Wednesday he wanted a further clean-up both in the national and regional administrations which he complained are corrupt and running a monopoly on control of government and major enterprises.

"They promised to do it in 1 1/2 months. We are prepared to wait," he said, adding he would resort to the same means if the government did not act.

"We are ready. We can do it with bare hands. But it does not take long to find arms," Boimatov said.

Boimatov, who commanded a battalion of 5,000 men in western Tajikistan in support of the government during the 1992 civil war, said he still supported the president but despised many of those around him.

"They are deceitful swine, the men around the president," he said. "I think the president himself is not guilty [of corruption] but he is still young and needs advisers and those advisers are not always saying the right thing."

Mayor of Tursunzade for two years after the civil war until he resigned to pursue his business as a trader of anything from cotton to cars, Boimatov, 42, three years younger than the president, was named Tajikistan's trade representative in Tashkent, the capital of neighboring Uzbekistan, Wednesday evening.

The job will no doubt suit him. Half Uzbek by birth, although he said he considers himself Tajik, Boimatov has a portrait of the Uzbek president Islam Karimov in his living room.

"He has helped us a lot with flour, cooking oil and food," he said of Karimov. "If my president had helped as much, I would also hang his picture up."

The region of Tursunzade is 68 percent ethnic Uzbek, he said, and was suffering from Tajikistan's drastic crash in living standards since independence. Discrimination has taken a toll on the Uzbeks, with all walks of life dominated by the ruling Tajik Kulyabi clan.

Townspeople agreed with Boimatov.

"People would support the government if it helped them," said one, an Uzbek schoolteacher. "There are a lot of shortages."

But Boimatov was not the answer, he said. "He is a middling man," he said with a cackle of laughter.