DUSHANBE -- After a six-year-long hiatus, Jamaat Ansarullah (JA) is making its presence known again.
The Afghan-based extremists, who are all or predominantly Tajik nationals, joined the Taliban in fighting Afghan law enforcement in Badakhshan Province the night of July 4-5.
About 50 to 60 militants participated, according to the provincial government's website. Thirteen Afghans and two Tajik nationals were killed.
The dead Tajiks were known as Umar Islom and Khoji Furkon, commanders of a group of Tajik militants in Badakhshan, Afghan National Army (ANA) Brig. Gen. Mohammed Akram Sameh, who is based in the province, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Tajik service.
"Those were their pseudonyms," Sameh said. "They received combat training from al-Qaeda and the Taliban."
The group had lofty ambitions of overthrowing the Tajik government, he said.
"But first they sought to strengthen their position in Badakhshan, since the province borders Tajikistan," he said.
"We won't abandon our Tajik brothers," Sameh said. "We will not let the terrorists ... cross into Tajikistan."
JA, outlawed in Tajikistan since 2012, is the only Tajik-founded terrorist organisation. It emerged in Pakistan in the early 1990s and gradually moved to Afghanistan under commander Amriddin Tabaraov.
JA made its biggest news back in September 2010, when it committed its lone terrorist act on Tajik soil. JA gunmen ambushed a Tajik army convoy in Rasht District, killing more than two dozen troops. After that attack, JA confined itself primarily to social media postings from its base in Afghanistan.
The return of JA
JA returned to combat even after it lost its leader.
Tabarov [also known as Domullo Amriddin] "was killed [in the summer of 2015] ... in Afghanistan during an Afghan special operation," a source in the Tajik Interior Ministry (MVD) told Caravanserai.
"At present, they number no more than 100 in Afghanistan," the MVD source said of JA. "Their ranks are growing ... but they exaggerate the size of their group."
The JA website is full of boastful postings about supposed victories in fighting Afghan troops.
JA also claimed responsibility for a failed jailbreak by three convicted extremists in Khujand, Tajikistan, in June. One inmate was killed during the escape, one was wounded and recaptured at the scene, and one was caught a few days later.
New Tajik militant leaders
Afghan officials are mentioning other Tajik militant leaders in Afghanistan, such as Mustafo Tajik in Kunduz Province.
Forty Tajik militants are training under Tajik, Amonullo Quraishi, chairman of the Imam-Sahib District government, told Caravanserai.
Tajik came to Imam-Sahib two years ago, Quraishi said, adding that the militant used to make land mines for the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Kunduz Province has 120 "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) militants too, who are fighting alongside the Taliban, Quraishi said.
"This is causing apprehension, naturally," he said.
Kunduz Province has been a flash-point before. Last fall, troops and the Taliban fought in Kunduz city for several days.
Tajik officials are confident
Tajik authorities, though, are confident that no militant invasion of Tajik territory is coming.
Militants from Afghanistan have never breached the Tajik border in the Tajik Border Troops' 22-year history, Border Troops spokesman Mukhammad Ulugkhojayev told Caravanserai.
In those 22 years, the force has arrested more than 16,000 border violators and had about 350 shoot-outs on the border, he said.
In a July 4 gun battle, Tajik border guards and police thwarted a group of Afghan drug smugglers. The traffickers fled back to Afghanistan, abandoning more than 7kg of hashish.
"The border is under our control," Ulugkhojayev said. "We are prepared to give our foreign enemies ... a resounding blow. We don't care whether they're from the Taliban, ISIL or JA."