Prison riots initiated by convicted ISIS militants have left three prison guards and 29 inmates dead in a detention centre outside the capital of Tajikistan in Central Asia.
The justice ministry of the former Soviet republic said that riots broke out on Sunday evening at the high-security prison in Vakhdat, 10 kilometres from the capital Dushanbe, when ISIS sympathisers armed with knives killed several guards and other prisoners.
Tajikistan officials said one of the instigators of the riot was the son of Gulmurod Khalimov, a special forces colonel who defected to ISIS in 2015. At the time, Khalimov, who had received Russian and US military training, issued a 10-minute propaganda video calling for public acts of violence against Tajikistan, Russia and the United States.
The Justice Ministry said that security forces had restored order, killing 24 inmates of a population of some 1,500 in the process. The ISIS prisoners killed five other inmates, officials said.
According to the Soufan Group, a global security think tank, 4,000 nationals from former Soviet republics in Central Asia have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, with Muslim-majority Tajikistan contributing the largest proportion of recruits.
The country's struggle to contain the threat posed by ISIS sympathisers gained international attention last year when a group of foreign cyclists were killed in an attack claimed by the terror group.
Two US citizens, as well as one Swiss and Dutch national were killed in July last year in a car ramming attack 70 kilometres sound-east of Dushanbe that officials said was deliberate. Authorities said that two Islamists responsible for the attack were subsequently killed in a special operation.
The riot on Sunday was the second major disturbance in Tajikistan’s prisons in the last six months. In November last year, some 21 inmates were killed during violence instigated by ISIS sympathisers.
Since the last sliver of territory controlled by ISIS was captured by US-backed Kurdish forces this year, Tajikistan authorities have said that some 500 nationals were killed in fighting.
The government is brokering a deal to repatriate women and children affiliated with the terror group in a move that has sparked concern among some observers that they could pose an additional security threat to authorities already struggling to contain Islamists.