KHUJAND, October 15, 2014, Asia-Plus - Sughd law enforcement authority have reportedly detained 10 local residents who were trying to leave the country to join jihadists in Syria.

An official source at the Sughd regional prosecutor’s office says they were detained in a joint operation carried out by representatives of the Sughd prosecutor’s office and officers from the Sughd organized crime control department.

“Nine of them are residents of the Spitmen district and one is resident of the Panjakent district.  All of them are ethnic Uzbeks aged 20 to 30 and they are currently being held at the detention center in Khujand,” the source said.

According to him, two of them were detained on September 26 and the remaining eight people were detained following their testimonies.

Criminal proceedings have been instituted against them under the provisions of two articles of Tajikistan’s Penal Code: Article 187 (parts 1 and 2) – organization of a criminal group; and Article 401 (1) -- participation in foreign armed conflicts; an investigation is under way.

We will recall that in December 2013, Tajikistan''s Supreme Court sentenced five of the country''s citizens to around two years in jail for fighting on the side of antigovernment forces in Syria.  The five were reportedly students at the Syrian International University who decided to join Syrian rebel forces.  All five were detained in October when they returned to Tajikistan.  Since Tajikistan does not have a law against “mercenaries,” the five were charged with “participation in a criminal group or in other armed groups.”

On May 22 this year, the Tajik parliament approved an amendment to the Criminal Code stipulating punishment for Tajik nationals taking part in foreign armed conflicts.

Sughd chief prosecutor Sharif Qurbonzoda told reporters on July 7 that all Tajik citizens fighting in the ranks of rebel forces in Syria will be amnestied if they return to Tajikistan.  He called on Tajik militants in Syria to give up fighting and return home.  Qurbonzoda said that unless the young men from Tajikistan committed serious crimes and were members of extremist organizations, they will all be amnestied and assisted by the Tajik government to return to peaceful life in their homeland.

We will recall that Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said  last month that some 200 Tajik nationals have joined Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.

Addressing the ruling People''s Democratic Party meeting on September 18, President Emomali Rahmon said that 30 Tajiks fighting alongside the jihadi groups have been killed abroad, while several others have been arrested upon their return to Tajikistan.