Tajik man who killed two at Moldova airport is wanted for abduction in his country

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A Tajikistan national who fatally shot two security officers at Moldova’s main international airport is wanted in his native country in relation to the kidnapping of a local bank official, Tajik authorities said.

The General Prosecutor’s Office of Tajikistan named the assailant as Rustam Ashurov, saying he is a member of an “organized criminal group” that on June 23 kidnapped the deputy chairman of a Tajik bank in Dushanbe, the country’s capital.

The prosecutor’s office said that after a criminal investigation was launched, Ashurov, 43, a resident of Dushanbe, fled to Moldova via Turkey “with the aim of going into hiding in EU countries.”

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After arriving at Chisinau International Airport in Moldova’s capital on Friday, he was denied entry into the country and grabbed a guard’s weapon as he was being escorted away by officials, according to authorities. He fatally shot two security officers. One traveler was also wounded in the attack.

Ashurov sustained serious injuries and was hospitalized after special forces intervened to subdue him, said Moldova’s acting prosecutor general, Ion Munteanu. Prosecutors are investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack, he added.

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said in a statement Friday that the two fatalities included a border police officer and an airport security employee.

The head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, told reporters that there was no wider risk to the country from the incident.

Asked if Ashurov had connections to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Cernauteanu said there was no evidence that the suspect “has relationships with military or paramilitary structures” and he was not listed in any international search system.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, neighboring Moldova - a country with a population of about 2.6 million people, and a European Union candidate since June 2022 - has faced a long list of crises.

They included an acute winter energy crisis after Russia dramatically reduced gas supplies and recurring anti-government protests organized by a now-outlawed Russia-friendly political party against the ruling pro-Western administration.

Moldova’s leaders have also repeatedly accused Moscow of conducting campaigns to try to destabilize the country, which, like Tajikistan, was a Soviet republic until 1991.

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