DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajik security forces have tracked down and killed eight militants, including an al Qaeda-linked warlord accused of a September attack on govt troops, a security official said Tuesday. Security forces launched a retaliatory operation against the rebels in a mountainous area in eastern Tajikistan shortly after their September 19 attack on a truck column carrying govt troops, 28 of whom were killed. The attack underscored the volatility of Central Asia, which borders Afghanistan, Iran and China, and where Islam is on the rise amid widespread poverty. and official crackdowns on devout Muslims. "Aloviddin Davlatov has been destroyed. He was an al Qaeda member," Tokhir Normatov, chief of staff at Tajikistan's interior ministry, told Reuters, referring to the militant accused of leading the attack on government troops. "We now have to destroy Mullah Abdullo," Normatov said in a reference to another rebel leader who is still at large. He said there were no losses among security forces. At least 33 insurgents have been killed during the several-months-long government counter-offensive in the mountains. Security forces have lost at least 41 people, on top of the 28 killed in the September attack. Tajikistan, a secular but mainly Muslim country of 7.5 million people, shares a porous 1,340-km (840-mile) border with Afghanistan. Last year, Dushanbe jailed more than 100 members of banned groups in its battle against radicalism. The poorest of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Tajikistan attracts the interest of Russia and the United States because of its strategic location on a major drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of people were killed in Tajikistan during the 1992-97 civil war between factions reflecting overlapping political, religious and clan loyalties.