MOSCOW – The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a car-and-knife attack on Western tourists cycling in Tajikistan that killed two Americans and two Europeans.
Officials in the ex-Soviet Central Asian didn't publicly address the IS claim and instead blamed the attack on a banned local Islamist group. Still, the young men featured in an IS-linked video resembled those identified as suspects in the attack who were later killed by Tajik authorities.
The Islamic State group said in a statement late Monday that several of its soldiers attacked the "citizens of the Crusader coalition." That referred to an attack Sunday when a car rammed into a group of foreign cyclists south of the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. The driver and the passengers then got out and attacked the tourists with knives, leaving four dead and three injured.
Two of the victims were American, one was Swiss and the fourth was from the Netherlands, foreign and Tajik officials said. The injured include a woman from Switzerland.
A video posted on an IS-linked website Tuesday shows five men sitting on a hill against the backdrop of a black-and-white IS flag and declaring allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The men say they're from Tajikistan and pledge to slaughter disbelievers in the name of Allah. A note accompanying the video says the men took part in the weekend attack.
Tajikistan's Interior Ministry on Tuesday posted photos of the bodies of four suspected attackers lying in a field. Three of the young men resemble those in the IS video.
It blamed the attack on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, a local party banned several years ago for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Tajikistan, an impoverished, predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet nation of some 8 million people, was devastated by a five-year civil war with Islamist-inspired rebel forces, which ended in 1997.
Alarmed by the rise of the Islamic State group in recent years, Tajik authorities have clamped down on behavior and traditions associated with Islam, regulating how people dress and behave at funerals and ordering men to shave their beards. Critics of this approach say this could simply radicalize secular Muslims.