Islamic State militants riot in Tajik prison, dozens dead

Three prison guards and 29 inmates have been killed after a riot broke out at a high-security prison in Tajikistan. It is the second deadly prison disturbance in the country in the space of six months.

Convicted "Islamic State" (IS) militants detained in a high-security prison in the Tajik city of Vahdat killed three guards and five fellow prisoners, the country's justice ministry said on Monday. 

The incident occurred late on Sunday after the militants, armed with knives, started a riot in the facility, which houses 1,500 inmates, including people convicted of religious extremism. 

The prisoners first stabbed to death three guards, and then five other inmates "in order to intimidate" the others, the ministry said. Security forces killed 24 militants and restored order in the prison, which is located on the outskirts of the capital, Dushanbe. 

One of the instigators of Sunday's riot was Bekhruz Gulmurod, the 20-year-old son of the former head of Tajik special forces who defected to IS four years ago and who has since been killed, according to the ministry.  

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where did it come from?

The "Islamic State" (IS) — also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh — is an al-Qaida splinter group with a militant Sunni Islamist ideology. It emerged in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Their goal is to create a worldwide "caliphate." It gained worldwide notoriety in 2014 after a blitzkrieg military campaign that resulted in the capture of Mosul.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where does it operate?

IS is believed to be operational in more than a dozen countries across the world. It controls territories in Iraq and Syria. However, the group has lost much of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria at the height of its expansion in 2014.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Who is fighting back?

The US leads an international coalition of more than 50 countries, including several Arab nations. Russia, Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah, which all support the Syrian government, also fight IS. Regional forces such as the Kurdish peshmerga (above) and US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, fight IS on the ground. The Iraqi army and militia have pushed IS from large parts of the country.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

How does it fund itself?

One of IS' main sources of income has been oil and gas. At one point, it controlled an estimated one-third of Syria's oil production. However, US-led airstrikes deliberately targeted oil resources and the Syrian government as well as US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters have retaken most oil wells. Other means of income include taxes, ransom, selling looted antiquities and extortion.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

Where does it carry out attacks?

IS has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks across the globe. The militant group has targeted capitals across the EU, including Berlin, Brussels and Paris. IS leaders have encouraged so-called "lone wolf" attacks, whereby individuals who support IS carry out terrorist acts without the direct involvement of the group.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

What other tactics does it use?

The group uses various tactics to expand its power. IS fighters have looted and destroyed historical artifacts in Syria and Iraq in an attempt at "cultural cleansing." The group has also enslaved thousands of women from religious minority groups, including Yazidis. IS also uses a sophisticated social network to distribute propaganda and recruit sympathizers.

What is the 'Islamic State'?

How has it impacted the region?

IS has further exacerbated the ongoing Syrian conflict. Millions of Syrians and Iraqis have fled their homes, many traveling to Europe in pursuit of refuge. Although it has lost all of its strongholds, the militant group has left extraordinary destruction in its wake. Areas affected by the militant group's rule will likely take years to rebuild.

Tajik tourist attack

IS claimed responsibility for another Tajik prison riot last November, which followed a deadly attack by its followers on Westerners a few months earlier. Four tourists on a cycling holiday — from the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands — were killed in the July 2018 attack by a hit-and-run driver. 

The perpetrators "were soldiers of the "Islamic State" and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries," a statement by the group said. 

Read more: Western tourists killed in Tajikistan attack claimed by IS

The former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan is a landlocked country bordering Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is the first country in the world to have signed a memorandum with China on building the Silk Road Economic Belt, also known as the "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) initiative. 

kw/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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