MAY 28 (The Bulletin) – Wearing a black scarf wrapped around his head and cradling a sniper rifle, Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, Tajikistan’s paramilitary police chief, appeared in a video for IS to confirm that he had defected to the extremist group.
Colonel Khalimov’s defection is a major blow to Tajikistan and a major victory for IS. It has targeted Central Asia as a prime recruiting ground and has released videos showing Central Asian recruits training and also of a Kazakh boy shooting dead Russian captives.
In the slickly-made 12 minute video, 40-year-old Colonel Khalimov explained that he had defected from Tajikistan because of the authorities’ crackdown on Islamic dress and prayers.
He called on other Tajiks to join him in Syria and described Americans as pigs.
“Listen, you dogs, President and ministers, if only you knew how many of our boys, our brothers are here, waiting, eager to return to Tajikistan to establish sharia law,” he said.
At the end of the video, Colonel Khalimov shows off his skills as a trained sniper by shooting a ripe tomato.
Colonel Khalimov has been missing since late April and rumours had been flying around Dushanbe that he had headed to Syria to join IS.
And he is high-profile recruit for IS. As head of Tajikistan’s paramilitary police force, Colonel Khalimov wielded large powers and responsibilities.
His defection poses more problems for Central Asian states which say they are already struggling to fight against the IS recruitment drive.
The International Crisis Group has estimated that there are 4,000 men from Central Asia fighting for IS in Syria.
>>This article was first published on May 28 in issue number 233 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper. The Conway Bulletin covers Central Asia and the South Caucasus