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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajik Battles Subsiding As Rebels Flee to Hills

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Government troops chased the last large group of rebel fighters into the mountains on Monday after five days of fighting in the Central Asian nation.

The 200 rebels concentrated around Aini, a town about 160 kilometers north of the capital, Dushanbe, tried to flee in small groups toward the Uzbek border after suffering heavy losses in weekend firefights with government soldiers.

"Practically all the Aini district is now under control of government troops,'' said Tajikistan Security Minister Saidamir Zakhurov.

Government officials say the rebels would not escape because the area is surrounded, the border with Uzbekistan is closed, and all roads have been cut off.

As fighting in Aini subsided, the International Red Cross in Tajikistan sent a delegation to northern Tajikistan to survey the damage and distribute medical supplies.

Red Cross officials said 40 homes had been destroyed in fighting over the weekend in the city of Khudzhand, and more than 2,000 homes needed repairs. They also said over 500 people had been wounded in Khudzhand.

The government has said that more than 200 people have been killed since the fighting broke out last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of rebel leader, former army Colonel Makhmud Khudoiberdyev, were unknown, said presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov.

There were unconfirmed reports suggesting that Khudoiberdyev and former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdulladzhanov had already escaped into Uzbekistan, Saidov said.

The Tajikistan government appealed to Uzbekistan, Russia and other former Soviet republics for assistance in detaining organizers of the revolt.

Khudoiberdyev began the uprising demanding President Emomali Rakhmonov free political prisoners and bring his supporters into government. The president refused to negotiate with the rebels.

The fighting follows a peace treaty last year that ended five years of civil war between the Muslim opposition and Rakhmonov's hard-line government. Opposition groups are now participating in the government and the armed forces.

There are many rebel leaders and warlords who ignore the accords and stage attacks across the poor, mountainous former Soviet republic. Rakhmonov released a statement denouncing the rebels, saying their uprising had not derailed Tajikistan's attempts to adhere to the treaty, Itar-Tass reported Monday.

"The peace process in the republic is continuing and there are no forces able to stop it,'' Rakhmonov said.