Four Western tourists have been killed by a car driver in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan. The "Islamic State" terror group claimed responsibility for the incident.
Four tourists on a cycling holiday — from the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands — were killed on Sunday by a hit-and-run driver in an attack claimed by the "Islamic State" (IS) group.
The suspects "had knives and firearms," Tajikistani interior minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda said of the attack, during which three other cyclists — from the Netherlands, Switzerland and France — were injured. One sustained a knife wound and was receiving medical assistance. The stab victim, whose nationality was not given, was in a stable condition.
"We are looking into all versions — accident, robbery...including a terrorist act," Rahimzoda added.
'IS' claims responsiblity
The "Islamic State" later claimed responsibility for the incident in a release through its AMAQ news agency.
The attackers "were soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries," a statement by the group said.
Five suspected attackers were killed by police and at least four suspects detained, according to separate police accounts.
Dutch newspaper the Telegraaf reported that one of the deceased tourists as a 56-year-old man who had been cycling from Thailand to Iran with his 58-year-old girlfriend. She survived the incident and was being treated for her injuries in hospital, it said.
The deceased man's brother told the Dutch newspaper that the couple had cycled from Bangkok to China, but after running into problems with the police, they escaped to Tajikistan. He said Afghanistan would have been a more obvious destination on the way to Iran, but they avoided it because it was "too dangerous."
Security advice updated
The incident happened in Danghara, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe.
The US embassy in Dushanbe confirmed two of the fatalities were US citizens, but did not provide further details "due to privacy concerns." It sent its condolences to the victims' families and said it will continue to work with authorities in the ongoing investigation.
The British embassy in Tajikistan updated its regular travel advice for tourists following the incident.
The former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan is a landlocked country which borders Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Cyclists are attracted by the country's unspoiled hilly routes, which are popular between January and June.
kw/nm (AFP, Reuters)