American cyclists killed in Tajikistan in possible terror attack

Four American and European cyclists have been run down and killed by a auto in Tajikistan in what authorities said could be a terrorist attack.

The incident happened in Danghara, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe.

The attackers "were soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries", a statement by the group said.

Three other cyclists in the group, including a Swiss woman, sustained injuries and sought medical help, according to Tajik and Swiss officials. Four cyclists were killed - two Americans, one Dutchman, and a Swiss citizen - and at least three others were injured.

Interior Ministry officials said the suspected perpetrators of the incident, which took place at 3:30 p.m., fled the scene, but that one of them was later killed in a confrontation with police.

Investigators searched the village of Torbulok following the incident and identified a damaged vehicle that showed "involvement in the commission of this crime", according to a statement sent to CNN Sunday from the Tajikistan Interior Ministry.

Among the four suspects killed was the owner of the auto, which police believe hit the tourists as they were cycling through a rural area 90 kilometres south-east of the capital Dushanbe. One other person was resisting arrest and was "eliminated" as a suspect.

"We are looking at versions that this was an accident, armed robbery, murder".

Bikes on the Pamir highway in Tajikistan.

The Government of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon - who expressed condolences to the US, Swiss and Dutch authorities on Monday - fought Islamist guerrillas in a 1992-1997 civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives. He said Afghanistan would have been a more obvious destination on the way to Iran, but they avoided it because it was "too risky".

Tajikistan has struggled with poverty and instability since the former Soviet republic in Central Asia became independent in 1991.