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6 Hostages Freed, Including 5 From U.N., Ending Standoff in Tajikistan

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A warlord freed his last six hostages Monday--five of them U.N. workers--ending a two-week standoff in this Central Asian country.

The breakthrough came after President Emamali Rakhmonov ventured into the mountains east of Dushanbe, the capital, on Monday to personally negotiate for the hostages’ release.

The warlord, Bakhram Sadirov, had demanded direct talks with the president. After the meeting, he released the hostages and apologized for taking 16 captives since Feb. 4.

“I would like to express my apologies to the world community,” Sadirov said on Russia’s independent NTV television. “We had no other options. Our aim was to get back 40 people.”

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Sadirov had demanded that the government pick up and deliver 40 of his fighters from bases in Afghanistan. Thirty-three were handed over Saturday.

On Sunday, the government threatened to use force. With the mediation of Russian officials, Sadirov released five of his remaining 11 hostages--three U.N. workers and two Russian journalists--in return for talks with the president.

The warlord sent two representatives and one of the hostages--Tajikistan’s security minister--to meet Rakhmonov in a village near his base.

The last hostages were handed over Monday evening. In addition to the government official, they included U.N. military observers from Switzerland and Ukraine and U.N. refugee workers from Nigeria, Russia and Tajikistan.

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Details of the discussion between the president and Sadirov’s representatives were not released.

Russia has 25,000 troops in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, to prop up the government against the mostly Muslim opposition.


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