A man claiming to be the former head of ex-Soviet Tajikistan's special forces police division appeared in a video Wednesday saying he has joined the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group in Syria.
The man resembling Colonel Gulmurod Halimov, 40, who sparked panic after failing to report for duty in late April, says in the footage that he was driven to join the group by the impoverished state's perceived anti-Islamic policies, reports AFP.
"We are coming for you, Inshallah," he tells the Tajik government. Tajikistan is located in central Asia, to the northeast of Afghanistan.
Tajikistan's Ministry of the Interior refused to comment on the video which has been widely shared on social networks.
In the clip of over 10 minutes, which appears with the logo of the Furat media collective believed to be under the control of the Islamic State, Halimov wears black clothing and headwear and totes what appears to be a sniper rifle.
Calling Tajikistan's president and Interior Minister "dogs," Halimov asks soldiers in the country's armed forces if they are "prepared to die" for a government that cracks down on public expressions of Islam such as hijab-wearing and praying in the street.
He also appeals to the more than one million Tajik nationals working in Russia to cease being "slaves" and join ISIS.
According to Tajik media, citing security sources, the colonel, who says he received formal military training in both Russia and the United States is believed to have flown to Moscow May 1 with "almost ten" people.
Tajikistan's authoritarian and secular President Emomali Rakhmon, who oversaw the government's victory against a coalition involving Islamist forces in a 1990s civil war, has said that "hell awaits" Muslims killing other Muslims in the Syrian conflict.
His government has been criticized by rights groups for everything from forced beard shavings to numerous convictions of believers on religious extremism grounds.