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Attacked Dutch couple cycled from Bangkok to Tehran

Because they are the insecure Afghanistan wanted to avoid, but chose the experienced Dutch cyclists for the route from the Tajik Pamirgebergte. There they were Sunday attacked with a car. The perpetrators are shot and killed.

First In cycling and then die, wrote René Wokke, and Kim Postma, on 20 July on their blog. The two Amsterdam travelers had just arrived in Chorog, a city with 28,000 residents …

First In cycling and then die, wrote René Wokke, and Kim Postma, on 20 July on their blog. The two Amsterdam travelers had just arrived in Chorog, a city with 28,000 inhabitants in the southeast of the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan. The Pamir is a mountain range, popular amongst cyclists the Pamir Highway bikes. A road of about two thousand km across Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan, another ex-soviet republic with endless mountain ranges.

Sunday the two were Locals – with a small group of cyclists from Switzerland, America and Spain that they were on encountered – on a road in the southern district of Dangara run over by a black Daewoo Leganza. On amateur images is to see how the car cyclists creates and then reverses and even a cyclist knocked over drives. Then, the cyclists, in all likelihood, with knives robbed by the occupants of the car – four or five young men, said witnesses at a local medium. A Belgian fietstoerist that was in the neighborhood and one of the wounded spoke to confirms that at VRT NWS.

The perpetrators fled afterwards. One of them was later arrested, another was in the action shot. Three others were today shot dead by the authorities. The perpetrators are men, boys really, barely 20 years old, according to a opsporingsbericht of the Tajik police. Their motive is still unclear, but Tajik authorities suspect a planned action, because they are not all in one car would fit. It is possible that the boys a member of a criminal gang, or jihadists, according to the Tajik minister of the Interior on Monday at a press conference. All options to be kept open and investigated, ” he said.

What is sure is: Wokke, the two Americans and the Swiss rider came to. Wokkes partner Postma was injured and is in a hospital. How she is doing, is unclear. Three others were also injured.

Experienced travelers

It goes well with tourism in Tajikistan. According to official figures, cited by Tajik and foreign media, would in just the first five months of this year to 900,000 foreign tourists to the country have done to – four times as many as in the same period of the previous year. But even though Tajikistan is a poor country, attacks on foreigners are a rarity.

Earlier this month reported a Hungarian fietstoerist himself to the police. A man was the night her tent is penetrated, but she could be her travelling companion to arouse alarm struck. The man was held. The couple told Radio Free Europe ‘under the impression’ of the decisiveness of the authorities and traveled further.

Especially cycling holidays are popular. The ANWB called the country in 2009 one of the ten most beautiful fietslanden in the world. Many travel agencies offer group tours, or give travel tips. On the Pamir Highway is the ‘quite refrain,” writes the ANWB in a travel guide. Joris Uitentuis know what that means. He cycled the route 5 years ago. ‘The highest point is at 4850 meters, there is only a 50 percent oxygen. You come yourself.’

Uitentuis cycled the northern route, there you will come across only the occasional cyclists or a Chinese truck, ” he says. Wokke and Postma, cycling on the busier southern route, near the border with Afghanistan, where more traffic is. Uitentuis calls it Pamirgebergte a ‘chill area’: ‘it is so desolate and undiscovered.’ Unsafe he felt, never, ” he says.

That also says the Kyrgyz toergids Kudaibergen Mamadiev. “This is the first incident that I know of.’ Last year he cycled two times with groups of tourists on the Pamir Highway from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan. “But without guidance, it is less safe.’ Not that a planned attack really to avoid, he acknowledges.

The group rode without guidance by the country. That had the Dutch not required: they are experienced travelers who sometimes even cycling through remote, inhospitable areas to organize. “They are in February left’, says Wokkes brother Erik. Wokke was a very experienced traveller, ” he says. ‘He travels since his twentieth, and in more than 130 countries.’

Now they were on their way from Thailand to Iran. ‘From Bangkok to Tehran’, they wrote on their blog, ” that’s the plan.” Because they are not the insecure Afghanistan wanted bicycles – as the crow flies the quickest route – the entrance, the two to through China and Tajikistan. There crossed the Pamir via the Pamir Highway. The skies are a bit thin, the plains are vast and the roads often unpaved. You can there are hundreds of kilometres long, not a village and not a human encounter. The views are spectacular and colorful. ‘High, heavy, harsh, long. This is the ultimate challenge of this trip, wrote Wokke and Postma on 30 June.

Twenty days later they arrived in Chorog. From there they go to the capital, Dushanbe. ‘About 550 km from here’, they write. ‘Rumour of the road for the first 60 miles was terrible. We are going to see.”

© NRC Handelsblad. With the cooperation of Eva Cukier and Steven Musch.

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