Two Americans were killed on Sunday in a jihadist attack claimed by the Islamic State in Tajikistan, the country’s interior minister confirmed.
A group of seven people were cycling through Danghara district, around 55 miles southeast of the capital Dushanbe, before they were struck by a car carrying four armed people. After striking the tourists with the vehicle, the assailants got out and continued the attack with knives and firearms.
A total of four people died in the incident, including two Americans, one Swiss, and one Dutch national. Two other people were injured.
Tajik authorities were initially reluctant to label the attack as terrorism, although the Islamic State later claimed the attack on Twitter, declaring that a “detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate” unified to strike “citizens of Crusader coalition countries.”
“We give glad tidings to the citizens of the Crusader coalition countries with what will disturb them, and what is coming is more devastating and bitter, Allah permitting,” it continued.
The U.S. Embassy in Danghara strongly condemned the attack but claimed there was no evidence of an increased threat to American citizens.
“As of now, the U.S. Embassy has no evidence that indicates a heightened level of threat to U.S. citizens,” the embassy said in a statement. “We encourage U.S. citizens to maintain awareness of their surroundings and take the precautions recommended below.”
“We condemn the senseless attack, offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” they continued. “Because of privacy concerns, we are unable to share further details about the U.S. citizens.”
If confirmed as a terrorist incident, it would be the first attack on Americans abroad in almost a year, with the last being the van attack in La Rambla, Barcelona, that killed 13 people and injured at least 130 others in August last year.
Confirmation of a terrorist incident would be a blow for the country, which declared 2018 “a year of tourism” as it seeks to attract more visitors to the mountainous country in a bid to boost economic growth.
“We are looking at versions that this was an accident, armed robbery, murder,” interior minister Ramazon Rakhimzoda said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The version of a terrorist act is also not being excluded.”
The U.S. has meanwhile referred all inquiries to local authorities.
“The Embassy commends Tajik authorities on their professional and quick response to the incident, and we will continue to work closely with them on the ongoing investigation,” the embassy added.