Cyclists killed in Tajikistan described ‘dream’ trip

A wounded cyclist is attended to after a car and knife attack that killed four tourists in Tajikistan. (AP Photo)
Updated 31 July 2018
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Cyclists killed in Tajikistan described ‘dream’ trip

  • The riders were attacked by a gang armed with knives and guns in a highly unusual incident for Tajikistan
  • The slain Americans explained on their blog that they had decided to quit their jobs to bike around the world

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: Cyclists from Europe and the US who were killed in an attack claimed by the Daesh group in Tajikistan had described their trip as a “dream come true.”
The victims were Jay Austin and Lauren Munoz from the US, Rene Wokke from the Netherlands and Markus Hummel from Switzerland, according to Tajik authorities.
Each of the travelers had a blog to document journeys that took them to the Pamir Highway, a Soviet-era road stretching across 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) which runs near the border with Afghanistan and has spectacular views.
The Americans explained on their blog SimplyCycling that they had “decided to quit our jobs and bike around the world.”
The pair had traveled through Africa and Europe before flying to Kazakhstan in May.
The posts on the site and on their Instagram account broke off as they ventured into mountainous Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet states.
“Tajikistan is a tough place to cycle. It is cold and windy and mountainous and, most of all, very, very high,” Austin wrote a week ago.
“Really glad I did it. No need to ever do it again,” he said of crossing a Tajik mountain pass at a height of 4,655 meters with thin air and intermittent snow.
Austin had been featured in the Washington Post in 2015 as one of those following a “tiny house” trend and downsizing his daily life to essentials.
On Sunday, a car mowed into the group of seven cyclists, two of whom were injured while another was left unscathed.
The riders were attacked by a gang armed with knives and guns in a highly unusual incident that Tajikistan has said was organized by a member of an opposition party.
Dutch victim Wokke, a 56-year-old psychologist, was cycling with his partner Kim Postma, a 58-year-old hospital administrator, who was injured in the incident.
The website of Dutch newspaper NRC said the couple were traveling from Bangkok to Tehran and chose to go through Tajikistan to avoid the dangers of Afghanistan.
Wokke was a very experienced traveler and had visited more than 130 countries, according to his brother, Erik.
The pair, from Amsterdam, had left Thailand in February and planned to arrive in Tehran in September before flying back to the Netherlands.
Wokke and Postma described the Pamir Highway on their blog as “the ultimate challenge of this trip.”
Victim Markus Hummel also kept an online record of the journey with Swiss national Marie-Claire Diemand who was injured in the attack.
In a blog entry entitled “A dream comes true,” they explained that they were traveling along the Silk Road from Xi’an in China to Kyrgyzstan.
“Since we are already on the road, we definitely don’t want to miss the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan,” the pair said.
Their last entry was on July 25 when the whole group was staying in the Tajik town of Khorugh, after adventures including their tent filling with drifts of sand.
They said that, on the highway, “we enjoy the silence, the dreamlike landscape and look at the Pamir River and the Afghan side of the valley all day long.”
Friends and well-wishers posted messages of condolences on the American victims’ SimplyCyling Instagram page.
One, Robert Renner, wrote: “My condolences to the family and friends of Jay and Lauren.”
Another, Angela Wuerth, wrote: “I’m so sad that something so tragic could happen to such beautiful, kind people.”


Suspected extremists kill 10 Mali soldiers: security source

Updated 19 sec ago
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Suspected extremists kill 10 Mali soldiers: security source

  • Malian source said a camp in Guire town was attacked

BAMAKO, Mali: At least 10 Malian soldiers died Sunday in an attack by suspected terrorists in the center of the African country, a security source told AFP.
“There are at least 10 dead soldiers,” the Malian source said. “Yes our camp at Guire was attacked on Sunday about five in the morning.”