The Khujand mayor’s office has released a statement regarding the sudden deaths of four residents of the city following a feast. Eight other individuals reportedly remained hospitalized in the case with symptoms of food poisoning.

“The incident has given rise to many rumors.  The rumors that those people were poisoned with bootleg alcohol are absolutely unfounded.  The law enforcement authorities are currently investigating how sodium nitrate could get into pilaf,” the statement says.  

According to the statement, Abdujabbor Normatov, Bakhtiyor Mirboboyev, Marouf Aliyev, Nosir Tohirov, Komil Bahriddinov, Ravshan Muminov, Hotam Rajabov and Komil Zokirov gathered in the yard of house # 5 in microrayon 19 on December 30 and cooked pilaf.

“Six hours later, Abdujabbor Normatov and his wife Muborakkhon Normatova, who also ate the pilaf, felt sick.  At 10:00 pm they were taken to the Khujand infectious disease hospital, where they underwent gastric lavage.  At about 11:55 pm, Bakhtiyor Mirboboyev was taken to the same hospital with symptoms of poisoning.  Later, Ravshan Muminov and Hotam Rajabov were taken to the hemodialysis department of Khujand city hospital # 1,” the statement said, noting that forensic medical examination established that sodium nitrate had been put in pilaf instead of salt. 

The statement notes that Marouf Aliyev died in the Cardiac Center while Nosir Tohirov, Komil Bahriddinov and Komil Zokirov died in their homes.

Recall, the Khujand prosecutor’s office also noted yesterday that the deaths were the result of sodium poisoning.  “An autopsy carried out on one of the victims has revealed sodium nitrate (niter) in his stomach” an official source at the Khujand prosecutor’s office told Asia-Plus in an interview yesterday.  

According to him, criminal proceedings have been instituted under the provisions of Article 108 (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code -- causing death by negligence.

Among those dead are Marouf Aliyev, 57, Komil Zoirov, 67, Komil Badriddinov, 52, and Nosir Toirov, 56.  

Meanwhile, citing Akbar Sharifov, the spokesman for the Sughd regional police, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reported on January 2 that investigators are trying to determine whether the deaths were the result of food poisoning or the consumption of tainted alcohol.

The four men who died were between 57 and 67 years of age. They had said they suddenly felt sick after eating a meal on December 30 that included alcohol, according to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service.

Relatives of one of those who died told RFE/RL the tragedy occurred in a house owned by a couple known for selling alcohol and organizing drinking parties.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service says that last year, on New Year's Eve, two residents of the same city died after consuming bootleg alcohol.