DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Masked Islamic State militants attacked a border post on the Tajik-Uzbek border overnight, triggering a gun battle that killed 15 of the militants, a guard and a policeman, Tajik authorities said on Wednesday.
There was no immediate announcement from the militant group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of assaults in Tajikistan in recent months.
Five of the gunmen were captured after the attack on the Tajik side of the border, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of the capital Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s National Security Committee said.
It released a photograph showing the badly burned bodies of three men in black military-style outfits, lying on the ground next to a wrecked car.
The committee said the gunmen had entered the former Soviet republic earlier this month via its border with Afghanistan and were “on a special mission”.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of four Western cyclists in Tajikistan last year and for a prison riot in May which left dozens dead.
The jihadi group, whose main stronghold was in Iraq and Syria before its territorial defeat, has recruited thousands of fighters from Central Asia, where Sunni Islam is the dominant religion.
Tajikistan, the poorest country in the ex-Soviet region, is particularly vulnerable to militancy because of its porous border with Afghanistan, which has a long history of conflict between the government and jihadi groups.
In recent years, cells linked to or inspired by Islamic State have also been operating in Afghanistan.
The Dushanbe government has offered amnesty to those who quit Islamic State and return home, provided they have committed no other crimes.
Two other Central Asian nations - Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - have this year brought home hundreds of people from Syria and Iraq, mostly women and children who were family members of Islamic State recruits.
Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mike Collett-White