(Forum 18) – It is not yet certain who killed Baptist pastor Sergei Beserab in Isfara, but reliable sources insist to Forum 18 News Service that a previously unknown Islamist group called Bayrat was behind it, a group said to be associated with the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan ‘s Taliban. The authorities state they have arrested a group of Bayrat members for the murder and other crimes, but some local Muslim politicians have denied to Forum 18 that Bayrat exists. Echoing a local newspaper attack on Beserab just before his murder, Isfara’s mayor, interviewed by Forum 18, attacked Beserab’s missionary work, referring to his past criminal convictions and alleging that the killing was solely drug-related. The mayor produced no evidence for his allegations and Tajikistan ‘s Baptist Church has firmly refuted them, pointing to the spiritual rebirth Besarab underwent when he became a Christian in prison, and his subsequent active growth in faith. The man thought to have carried out the murder, Saidullo Madyerov, is the son of the former imam of Isfara’s central mosque. Isfara is one of the most devoutly Muslim regions of Tajikistan .