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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tajik Civil War Leader Dead at 59

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Sayed Abdullo Nuri, the Tajik Islamic leader who led his party through a devastating civil war against the country's secular government in the 1990s, died of cancer Wednesday. He was 59.

Nuri died at his home in the capital, Dushanbe, said Muhiddin Kabiri, the deputy chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party.

The party is the only officially recognized Islamic political organization in predominantly Muslim Central Asia, where authoritarian governments that fear Islamic radicalism tightly control religious institutions.

After years of playing an influential role in Tajikistan's turbulent politics, Nuri dropped out of the public eye because of illness. His party, meanwhile, has been losing influence as Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov has tightened his grip on power, jailing both former loyalists and wartime opposition leaders on various criminal charges.

Nuri, an Islamic theologian taught by his father secretly during Soviet times, and his followers created the IRP in 1990, seeking a greater role for Islamic ideas and traditions in society. In 1992, a group of IRP activists proclaimed a region in central Tajikistan to be an Islamic state. An official ban ensued, and many of the party's leaders fled to Afghanistan and Iran, from where they commanded their forces during the civil war.