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Tajikistan forces declare cease-fire for talks: source

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajik government forces Wednesday declared a temporary cease-fire to allow for talks in a massive military operation in the southeast against militants loyal to an ex-warlord, a military source said.

The cease-fire started at 0500 GMT and would end at 0900 GMT, the military official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding the talks involved Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Khayrulloyev and representatives of the town of Khorog that was the focus of this week's deadly clashes.

According to the official toll, 12 government troops and 30 militants have been killed in the military operation close to the Afghan border which was launched after the murder of a top security agent at the weekend.

The government blamed Tolib Ayombekov, a former warlord from Tajikistan's 1992-1997 civil war, for the murder of regional security chief General Abdullo Nazarov.

It accused Ayombekov, who had been the head of a border guards unit, of running an organized crime group that smuggled drugs and precious stones into Tajikistan over the Afghan border and was behind a series of killings.

The military official said that in the truce talks the government side was demanding the handover of four suspects wanted in the murder of Nazarov.

But the talks would also attempt to specify the exact number of casualties from the fighting and help evacuate the wounded from the area which has been cut off from the rest of Tajikistan during the operation.

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