DUSHANBE -- Tajik police are citing success in preventing terrorism from harming their homeland.
In the year of May 2015 to May 2016, law enforcement prevented 50 terrorist plots from taking place in Tajikistan, the Interior Ministry (MVD) told Central Asia Online.
The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) was behind the planned attacks, the MVD said.
Targets included police stations in Dushanbe; Isfara, Sughd Province; and four cities in Khatlon Province -- Kulyab, Vose, Shahritus and Qurghonteppa, according to a source in the MVD who requested anonymity.
"After the authorities began to implement a plan to thwart and capture recruiters and potential terrorists, they .... began to put another plan in place, namely, committing 'jihad' in Tajikistan itself," the MVD source told Central Asia Online.
"The attacks were going to be committed with improvised explosive devices," the source said. "After we shut down the route from here to Syria, [militants] began to circulate propaganda in Tajikistan itself."
A number of plots
Tajik militants conspired to strike the homeland in a number of ways.
The militants even plotted to assassinate President Emomali Rahmon during his visit to Vakhdat last September.
In addition, they plotted to commit mass shootings during the Dushanbe celebration of Victory Day (May 9) in 2015.
Conspirators included "Bobojon Rajabali, a resident of Kulyab", the MVD source said. "He wanted to blow up 12 police stations [throughout Tajikistan] during Ramadan in 2015."
Rajabali and an internet acquaintance named Abusaid planned to blow up three police stations each in Dushanbe, Kulyab, Faizabad and Garm last July "but their plans were foiled", the source added.
High-school student's regrets
Firdavs Murodov, a Kulyab 11th-grader whom police questioned in connection with suspected involvement in terrorist acts, told Central Asia Online that he had no idea he had communicated with ISIL members.
"I learned only during questioning that the man who messaged me on the internet was a member of ISIL," Firdavs said. "He wrote me on the Odnoklassniki social network ... I really regret chatting with him. It almost ruined my life."
Tajikistan is busy defusing plots for domestic terrorism even as radicalised Tajiks continue to fight and die in Syria and Iraq.
Since 2011, about 1,000 Tajiks have joined the militants in the Middle East and 300 of them have been killed, the MVD estimates.
Seeking public co-operation
To defuse the radicalism that sends some Tajiks to Syria and moves others to hatch terrorist plots at home, the MVD regularly holds outreach meetings nationwide, MVD spokesman Jaloliddin Sadriddinov told Central Asia Online.
"On May 20 in Khujand, the MVD leadership met with the Sughd Province imam-khatib," Sadriddinov said.
"We convened the meeting to strengthen co-operation on preventing ... external terrorist threats," he said. "We also wanted to reduce the number of Tajiks in terrorist groups."
"We discussed the role of the clergy and ulema in preventing youths from joining terrorist groups," he said.
Reasons for youth vulnerability to recruitment
Tajik youth join terrorist groups because the most active members of society fail to show concern or to do their job properly, Nazar Sharif, Sughd Province police chief, said, according to the MVD website.
"Terrorism has nothing to do with the true nature of Islam," he said, according to the MVD. "We have to work together to prevent terrorism."
"Terrorists commit two crimes at once," Tajik Mufti Saidmukkaram Abdukodirzoda told Central Asia Online. "They kill the innocent ... and compound their sin by citing Islam. We must raise our ... vigilance to preserve our identity."
"Terrorists who say they fight in the name of Islam ... besmirch the religion," Khusein Shokirov, head of the Department of Religious Associations within the country's Committee for Religious Affairs and the Harmonisation of Traditions and Customs, told Central Asia Online.
Shafoat Bakoyeva, 50, of Dushanbe now finds herself monitoring her 20-year-old son out of concern that he could be radicalised.
"I panic when I see kids in my neighbourhood abandoning everything, including elderly parents, to go fight in Iraq and Syria," she told Central Asia Online. "I have to check [my son's] phones, notebooks and computer so that I don't miss anything."
"We have to be vigilant until we have eliminated all terrorist organisations," she said.
One young Dushanbe resident recognises the dangers that could lurk in harmless-looking social networks.
The Odnoklassniki site is full of individuals who "want to meet", Sulton Khamidov, 22, told Central Asia Online. But their profiles have no pictures or other information.
"After you 'meet' someone, the mind games begin," he said. "Do you perform namaz [Islamic prayer]? What religion does your family practice? Then I break off the conversation."