ISIS claimed responsibility for a Central Asian attack in which foreign cyclists were struck by a car and then stabbed by the sedan’s occupants.
The U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, confirmed that two U.S. citizens were killed in the mid-afternoon Sunday incident in the Danghara district, about 150 miles south of the capital Dushanbe.
A Swiss citizen and a Dutch citizen were also killed. The embassy said seven cyclists in all were struck by the car.
Tajikistan’s interior minister said the assailants were armed with knives and guns; Tajikistan’s Asia-Plus media group reported that three suspects were killed in a confrontation with police in the village of Osmondara. Another suspect was reportedly arrested.
Asia-Plus cited the head doctor at the local hospital as saying puncture wounds consistent with a knife attack were found on at least some of the cyclists who were injured. One stabbed cyclist is reportedly French.
“As of now, the U.S. Embassy has no evidence that indicates a heightened level of threat to U.S. citizens. We encourage U.S. citizens to maintain awareness of their surroundings and take the precautions recommended below,” the embassy said in an alert today. “We condemn the senseless attack, offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wish the injured a speedy recovery. Because of privacy concerns, we are unable to share further details about the U.S. citizens.”
“The Embassy commends Tajik authorities on their professional and quick response to the incident, and we will continue to work closely with them on the ongoing investigation,” the statement added.
The State Department’s Tajikistan travel advisory level is currently at “1,” the lowest possible, meaning travelers should just “exercise normal precautions.”
“While terrorist organizations are known to have a presence in the region, terrorist attacks have been infrequent in recent years and focused on local government targets, such as law enforcement and security services. Other violent acts are generally criminal-on-criminal or criminal-on-security services activity related to the narcotics trade,” says the State Department’s travel information. “Supporters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamaat Ansarullah, and al-Qaida may target U.S. government or private interests in the region, including Tajikistan.”
The ISIS claim of responsibility, issued through their Amaq news agency, offered no proof and used standard language seen in other claims, stating that they “were soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries.”
If true, it would be the first ISIS attack in Tajikistan, even though hundreds of Tajiks made the journey to Iraq and Syria to fight for the Islamic State.