Tajik officials have reported that three Islamic students have been detained and charged in the wake of the October 1 bombing of the Korean-led Grace Sonmin church in the center of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Security Ministry officials in Dushanbe have declined to confirm or deny this information to Keston News Service. However, Keston has learnt that all the church members detained in the wake of the bombing have apparently been freed.

About a dozen church members were detained in the immediate aftermath of the bombing as the authorities appear to have been determined to identify church members as the culprits, though most were freed after interrogation. Three church members were held in the week after the blasts and sources told Keston last week that one was still being held.

Interior Minister Khumdin Sharipov told the Russian Itar-Tass news agency on October 22 that three residents of Dushanbe suspected of setting off the two explosions were in custody. He added that he expected other organizers of the explosions to be identified this week. The following day Abdurakhman Rustamov, head of the interior ministry's crime-fighting unit, described the three Tajiks being held, aged in their thirties, as 'religious fanatics' and said they were also responsible for two other attacks. He told Agence France Presse that the three—students enrolled in an Islamic studies institute—have been charged with organizing the bombing.

Ayfiddin Ashurov of the Security Ministry press center refused to give Keston any information about the state of the investigation or to confirm or deny the arrests. "We don't give out any information by telephone to foreign journalists, only to our own," he told Keston from Dushanbe on October 24. He referred Keston to the Itar-Tass report. No one answered the phone on October 24 at the Interior Ministry press office or the government's Committee for Religious Affairs.

Lyudmila Khan, a translator at the Grace Sonmin church, told Keston from Dushanbe on October 24 that a further victim had died of her injuries in hospital the previous day, bringing the death toll to nine. She reported that five church members were still in hospital. (Other sources continue to report that eleven people have died.) Khan said that no church members were in custody, adding several times "everything is fine now." She declined to discuss the arrests of the alleged Islamic militants.

Khan confirmed that at least some of the one-off compensation payments of 350,000 Tajik roubles (150 U.S. dollars) promised to the families of victims by the mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, have been paid. "People are in the process of receiving money," Khan said. She added that the church continued to meet, but in new premises—a former school that the church had bought before the bombing took place. "The building is only half-finished, but services are continuing there," she told Keston.

Copyright © 2000 Keston News Service

Related Elsewhere

The BBC just covered "Tajik blast suspects charged."

Christianity Today ran "Tajik Authorities Detain Church Members after Fatal Bombing " two weeks ago.

Read "Deaths in Tajikistan Church Blasts Rise to 7" from the Oct. 2 edition of the People's Daily.

The BBC also ran a story, "Seven dead in Tajikistan church bombing."