Four tourists traveling through Tajikistan on bicycles Sunday were killed when a driver allegedly rammed his car into them and joined his passengers in going after the cyclists with knives, U.S. and Tajik officials said Monday.
Islamic State took credit for the attack Monday, but did not provide further detail or evidence for its claim. The attackers “were soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries,” according to a statement by the terror group’s AMAQ news agency.
A Daewoo sedan plowed into a group of seven foreign bicyclists about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on Sunday. The attackers then exited the vehicle then exited the car and began stabbing the victims with knives.
Four of the cyclists died and three others, including a woman from Switzerland, were injured, Tajik officials said.
Two of the victims were American, one was Swiss, and another was from the Netherlands, foreign and Tajik officials said. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon sent the leaders of each country a telegram expressing condolences on Monday.
Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda told reporters that one of the survivors had knife wounds and police found knives and guns with some of the suspects. He described the car crash as “an attack,” and said investigators were examining all possibilities, including a road accident, murder and terrorism.
Rakhimzoda said one suspect was killed while resisting arrest; his ministry said two suspects were killed and the U.S. Embassy reported three. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained.
Four suspects have been detained, according to the Interior Ministry of the Central Asian, ex-Soviet republic.
The State Department issued a statement on Monday condemning what it called a “senseless attack” and expressing “deepest condolences” to the families of the people killed. The department said it could not provide more information about the U.S. citizens due to “privacy concerns,” but that U.S. officials were working closely with Tajik authorities.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Silvia Mueller said that while the circumstances of the crash were unclear, the Swiss government’s travel advice for Tajikistan notes there is a risk of attacks and poor road travel conditions in the Central Asian country.
“Should it turn out to have been a terrorist act, this would be recorded in the travel advice,” Mueller said.
The State Department encouraged Americans headed abroad to monitor government advisories for updated information on where it is safe to travel.
Updated Monday, July 30, 2018 at 5:51 pm .