Tajik authorities launch crackdown on illegal mosques in capital

Dushanbe, Tajiksitan - Authorities in Tajikistan's capital have begun a crackdown on dozens of illegal mosques, fearing they could become a source of religious extremism, an official said Tuesday.

Thirteen of the 148 unregistered mosques in Dushanbe will be demolished, another 28 will be allowed to work after registering with authorities and the rest will be closed down, said Ilyos Ortukov, a representative of the city prosecutor's office.

"These unofficial mosques appeared in the early 1990s and the city administration wants to take them under its control," Ortukov said.

There are 29 official mosques operating in Dushanbe, according to authorities.

The five predominantly Muslim countries in ex-Soviet Central Asian have seen a rise of radical Islamic groups after the 1991 Soviet collapse, and their secular governments try to maintain strict state control over religion.

Tajikistan is the only country in the region that has an officially registered Islamic party. But in the past few years, the Islamic Rebirth Party has lost much of its influence, as President Emomali Rakhmonov has moved to strengthen his grip on power and tighten control.