Tajikistan: ISIS kills cyclists on a journey around the world (July 29, 2018)

On this day in 2018, four Western cyclists were stabbed to death by self-styled ISIS terrorists on the edge of a highway in Tajikistan.

The list of countries affected by terrorism continues to grow: part 1.

DANGHARA DISTRICT, TAJIKISTAN – When we think about terrorism and where it transpires I would imagine that most of us would go to the same four or five places. We would probably start with Afghanistan as it seems – not just seems but really is – a country where terrorism happens a lot.

We would then throw in Iraq and Syria. Some would include Somalia and Nigeria, both African nations with huge terrorism problems. After that it would most likely depend. After that short list it is far from obvious which country should be seen as getting the short end of the terrorism stick.

So, what about Tajikistan?

I’d bet dollars to donuts that most people have never heard of Tajikistan and could not find it on a map. The -stan ending may lead some to speculate it is somewhere in Asia and that would be correct.

Tajikistan is a Central Asian republic which once formed part of the USSR until that social experiment failed in the early 1990s. Unlike its immediate neighbours (other ‘stans’ such as Uzbekistan, Kazkakhstan, Kyrgystan and Turkmenistan) Tajiks do not speak a Turkic tongue but rather a language very akin to Farsi, the national language of Iran.

So if you had not heard of Tajikistan you most probably would not have associated it with terrorism. And yet that is exactly what happened on this day in 2018.

Five men who had pledged their allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) ran down an American couple and their travel companions on the edge of a highway in that nation and stabbed them to death. What on earth were they doing there? The US couple had quit their Washington office jobs to bike around the world in search of experiences they couldn’t find from behind their desks. And met their end gruesomely.

Tajik authorities were not convinced ISIS was behind the attack: they pointed the finger at a banned political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. Whoever was responsible, the attack was the first terrorist assault against Western tourists in Tajikistan.

Their deaths are senseless and tragic, but could have been avoided if they had used more judgment in planning their travel itinerary. Prayers for the families.

Some saw the cyclists as naive for biking in that part of the world. Perhaps. But naivete should not get your throat slit by a bunch of jihadis.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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