By RFE/RL’s Tajik Service
DUSHANBE – Tajikistan’s authorities say four close relatives of a former police commander who joined the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in 2015 have been killed in a clash with security forces.
Tajik police told RFE/RL the clash occurred late on July 4 in the country's Vose District, about 25 kilometers from Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan.
A local police officer told RFE/RL on July 5 that two brothers and two nephews of former Tajik police commander Gulmurod Halimov were killed.
That police officer said Halimov’s 52-year-old brother Sultanmurad Halimov was among the dead.
There was no immediate confirmation on the identities of the other relatives killed in the clash.
Authorities said the four were thought to be traveling to Afghanistan together with three other men.
Colonel Anvar Huseynov, a high-ranking security officer who led an operation against Halimov’s relatives, reportedly received several stab wounds during the July 4 altercation.
Authorities also told RFE/RL that the bodies of Gulmurod Halimov’s four relatives were transferred to morgues in the Vose District.
Officials have not disclosed full details about the operation against Halimov’s relatives.
The four had not been formally charged with being members of the IS militant group or suspected of any crime.
But security officials told RFE/L that Halimov’s brothers had been under surveillance in Dushanbe for some time and were followed by police after they left Tajikistan’s capital earlier on July 4.
Gulmurod Halimov, a former commander of Tajik Interior Ministry Special Forces, known as OMON, disappeared in April 2015.
In May 2015, a video of Halimov posted online showed him brandishing a sniper rifle and threatening to bring holy war to Russia and the United States.
Tajikistan has issued an international warrant for his arrest and the United States has offered $3 million for information on his whereabouts.
There have been several unconfirmed reports from both northern Iraq and Syria since 2015 that Halimov was killed while fighting for IS militants.
Tajik authorities have repeatedly rejected those reports, saying they think he is still alive.
In May, Tajik officials arrested Halimov’s 18-year-old son, Behruz Halimov, on charges of trying to join his father in Syria.