Two Washington residents who quit their office jobs last year to bike around the world were killed Sunday during an attack on cyclists in Tajikistan that the Islamic State claimed to have carried out. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan were among four people killed during the assault, which would have been the Islamic State’s first deadly attack in former Soviet Central Asia.
The assault occurred in the countryside south of the capital, Dushanbe, when assailants rammed a car into the cyclists before pouncing on them with knives. Rene Wokke from the Netherlands and Markus Hummel from Switzerland were also killed, Tajik authorities said.
The U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan confirmed the attack, which occurred in Danghara district, about 60 miles southeast of the capital, Dushanbe. The New York Times describes the area as “a picturesque mountain road that has been popular with Western bicyclists for its dramatic and remote scenery in a region close to the border with Afghanistan.”
“According to multiple sources, on July 29, Tajik citizens hit seven foreign cyclists with their vehicle, exited the car, and stabbed the cyclists with knives,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement on its website, adding it had “no evidence that indicates a heightened level of threat to U.S. citizens.”
The Associated Press reports, “Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimzoda 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.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the Tajik Interior Ministry said it had detained four people linked to the attackers after reporting Monday that security forces had killed four suspected attackers and detained a fifth. However, the U.S. Embassy reported three killed and one detained.
The Islamic State on Monday issued a bulletin through its news agency describing the attackers as “soldiers of the Islamic State.” In the past, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks that later turned out to be the work of groups or individuals unaffiliated with the terrorist network.