(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
DUSHANBE - A hit-and-run driver killed four foreign cyclists in Tajikistan in what may have been a terrorist act, the Central Asian country's interior minister said on Monday.
The tourists, from the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands, were killed on Sunday, Tajik authorities said. Three more, from Switzerland, the Netherlands and France, were injured - and one of them also had a stab wound.Security forces pursuing suspects in the attack killed four, including one as he was resisting arrest, and detained a fifth man, the former Soviet republic's interior ministry said.
"We are looking into all versions - accident, robbery ... including a terrorist act," Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda told a briefing.
Among the four suspects killed was the owner of the car, which police believe struck the tourists as they were cycling through a rural area 90 km (55 miles) southeast of the capital Dushanbe.
The U.S. Embassy said it could not name the U.S. victims due to privacy concerns, but indicated that it also considered the incident to be an intentional attack.
"We strongly condemn the cruelty of the attackers and recognize that they in no way represent the kindness and hospitality of the Tajik people," the embassy said in a statement.
The government of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon fought Islamist guerrillas in a 1992-1997 civil war which claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Some Tajik Islamists then joined a coalition government but in 2015 the state outlawed their political party, accusing its leaders of being behind a failed coup, a charge they deny.
Thousands of people from the mainly Muslim region have joined Islamic State militants in recent years. Several men from Central Asia were detained last year over a bombing of the metro in Russia's St Petersburg, and over truck attacks in New York and Stockholm.
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