2 Dead, 17 Held in Azerbaijan Anti-Islamist Operation

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Azerbaijan's security forces arrested 17 alleged Islamist militants in a nationwide operation Friday in which a security service officer and an alleged extremist were killed, authorities said.

The National Security Ministry "arrested 17 members of an illegal armed group which were planning subversive and terrorist acts aimed at undermining political stability in the country," the ministry said in a statement.

The special operation was conducted in the capital Baku and other places across Azerbaijan including the major cities of Ganja and Sumgait, the ministry said.

An agent from the ministry's special operations department, Elshad Guliyev, was killed and three other officers wounded in a shootout in the country's second-largest city Ganja. One of the alleged extremists was also killed and two others wounded.

Security officials seized large quantities of weapons, explosives, and extremist literature during the operation, said the ministry.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan is a mainly Shiite Muslim country, but after decades of Soviet rule it emerged as one of the most secular states in the Islamic world and has become an important supplier of oil to Europe.

The country has earned a reputation for political stability under the strongman rule of the Aliyev dynasty.

In recent months it has been hit by bouts of domestic unrest and there had been growing tension with its giant neighbor Iran to the south.

The authorities appear to be concerned about a rise in Islamist militancy in the country, which some commentators blame on mainly Shiite Iran.

But local news reports said the Ganja militants were "Wahhabist-influenced" in reference to the radical strain of Sunni Islam. There were no further details.

The authorities have sought to regulate religious practices in an attempt to prevent the rise of Islamic extremism, but Muslim critics have accused the security forces of persecuting devout believers.

Comments 1
Default-user-icon Sam (Guest) 09 April 2012, 07:11

Azerbaijan must start the war as soon as possible !!!
Motherland has no price ! And nobody will give back freely !
Vladimir Putin and Serge Sarkissian are deep gay in hot action !
Armenians are lying,they have no chance to win this war.
A half of Azerbaijan leaders make a big mistake to sleep on negotiations.
Nobody's will take care of that war !
At the same time they must permit Israeli militaries who are in Baku to give a lesson to Iranian government:
for immédiat liberation and reunification of Eastern Azerbaijan.
Yashasin Azerbaijan !!!