A group of foreigners cycling in Tajikistan were plowed down by a car, killing four - two from the United States. Authorities are looking at the incident as a possible terrorist act as the attackers also stabbed their victims after injuring them.
The Central Asian country’s interior minister and the U.S. embassy said on Monday that the fatalities are tourists from the United States, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Three others from Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France were injured, one of them from a stab wound.
The Embassy said in a statement on Monday, “According to multiple sources, on July 29 Tajik citizens hit seven foreign cyclists with their vehicle, exited the car, and stabbed the cyclists with knives.”
Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda said in a briefing, ”We are looking into all versions- accident, robbery, including a terrorist act.”
Security forces went after the suspects in the attack that killed the four foreigners. One of the suspects resisted arrest. The authorities also detained a fifth man.
Among the four suspects killed in the chase was the owner of the car, which police say hit the group of tourists as they cycled through a rural area 90 km southeast of the nation’s capital, Dushanbe.
The U.S. Embassy opted not to name the two American victims at this point owing to privacy concerns. It suggested, however, that it is viewing the incident as an international attack.
The U.S. Embassy denounced the incident in a statement: “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 also quickly clarified however that it had “no evidence that indicates a heightened level of threat to U.S. citizens.” It also praised the Tajik authorities “on their professional and quick response to the incident.”
Radio Free Europe published online a purported video of the incident and credited it to an anonymous source. The video showed a car doing a U-turn on a narrow road after it had already run into the group and then running over several of the cyclists.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This video reportedly from the scene of the attack that killed 4 American & European cyclists in Tajikistan appears to show the car drive back around to hit one of them lying on the road <a href="https://twitter.com/RFERL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RFERL</a> <a href="https://t.co/MwO03z3Url">https://t.co/MwO03z3Url</a></p>— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) <a href="https://twitter.com/ASLuhn/status/1023939491151667200?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 30, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Tajik authorities also disseminated a “wanted” notice that named two suspects aged 18 and 19 from the same village close to the Tajik-Afghan border, and a third one, 21, from the town of Nurek located not far from the site of the attack.
The mainly Muslim region has seen thousands of its people joining the Islamic State militants in recent years. Several men from Central Asia were also detained last year over a bombing of the metro in Russia’s St Petersburg and over truck attacks in New York and Stockholm.