Tajik officials say eight police officers were killed in attacks in and around the capital, Dushanbe, early on September 4, prompting the U.S. Embassy to close and sparking fears of further violence in the Central Asian nation.
The Interior Ministry website said a "terrorist group" led by Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda, also known as Hoji Halim, launched a pre-dawn attack on the Vahdat district police headquarters and later clashed with security forces near the Dushanbe International Airport.
Police say nine attackers were killed by security forces and six others were detained. Authorities say a search operation is under way to arrest Nazarzoda who escaped from the scene.
Nazarzoda, a former Islamic opposition commander and member of the recently-banned Islamic Renaissance Party had joined security forces in June 1997 when the government and the opposition signed a peace accord to end the five-year civil war.
The Interior Ministry said the attack in Vahdat, east of Dushanbe was not connected to the beating of Umar Bobojonov, the 23-year-old victim of the alleged police beating, who is in a local hospital and has not regained consciousness. Relatives and friends say he was targeted by police because of his beard.
Bobojonov's case sparked outrage in Vahdat.
The U.S. Embassy said on its Facebook page that it "has been closed, and official Americans have been advised to shelter in place and not send children to school today, September 4. All US citizens are advised to exercise caution."