3 Jan 2012

'Father Christmas' stabbed to death in Tajikistan

10:14 pm on 3 January 2012

A young man dressed as Father Frost - the Russian equivalent of Father Christmas - has been stabbed to death in Tajikistan in an attack police believe was motivated by religious hatred.

A crowd attacked Parviz Davlatbekov, 24, and stabbed him with a knife in the capital Dushanbe on Monday as he visited relatives dressed as Father Frost, who traditionally brings Russian children presents at New Year.

Russian cultural influence remains strong in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, although the vast majority of its 7.7 million people are Muslim, Reuters reports.

President Imomali Rakhmon has ordered students at foreign religious schools to return home and told security services to tighten control over religious education and mosques in Tajikistan, which he says are often used to foment radicalism.

Critics of Mr Rakhmon say poverty and repression in the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics is pushing many young Tajiks toward radical Islamism.

The country, where tens of thousands died in a civil war in the 1990s, shares a long border with Afghanistan.