Two killed in Moldova airport shooting, gunman arrested

Tajikistan says the gunman is wanted in a kidnapping case in his native country.

A 43-year-old Tajik man grabbed a gun, shot dead two security officers and wounded a civilian at Moldova’s main international airport on Friday after being denied entry to the country, according to authorities.

The suspected assailant was himself wounded and apprehended, police said on Friday, in an incident that briefly grounded flights at Chisinau International Airport.

On Saturday, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Tajikistan named the assailant as Rustam Ashurov, saying he was a member of an “organised criminal group” that on June 23 kidnapped the deputy chairman of a Tajik bank in Dushanbe, the country’s capital.

The prosecutor’s office said that after a criminal investigation was launched, Ashurov, a resident of Dushanbe, fled to Moldova via Turkey “with the aim of going into hiding in [European Union] countries”.

After arriving at Chisinau International Airport in Moldova’s capital on Friday, he was denied entry into the country and grabbed a guard’s weapon as he was being escorted away by officials, according to authorities. He fatally shot two security officers. One traveller was also wounded in the attack.

Ashurov sustained serious injuries and was hospitalised after special forces intervened to subdue him, said Moldova’s acting prosecutor-general, Ion Munteanu. Prosecutors are investigating the incident as a possible “terrorist attack”, he added.

The two killed were a border guard and an airport security officer, President Maia Sandu said, offering condolences.

Prosecutor Munteanu said the gunman held a passport from Tajikistan, a former Soviet state in central Asia, and had arrived in Chisinau from Istanbul.

Moldova, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has a population of 2.6 million and is pushing to join the European Union.

Shevelyova, 48, a Ukrainian executive who had been waiting to board a flight to Milan, said that passengers were not initially told why they had to evacuate.

“It was unclear if there was a bomb or something had happened. It was only after we went far away from the airport that we were told there is someone who is shooting.”

One witness, Olena Shevelyova, said she had been told to evacuate the airport with other passengers and heard four or five gunshots about 30 minutes later.

“We heard some guns shooting while we were already evacuated from the airport in the middle of runaway, we were asked to hide behind the technical buildings there,” she told the Reuters news agency by phone.

Moldova is often used for flights by neighbouring Ukrainians since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of their country.

The interior ministry said authorities were restoring order at the airport, but “commercial activity and flight arrangements at this time continue to be disrupted”.

It was not immediately clear how many flights were affected.