August 7, 2018 9:07 pm
Updated: August 7, 2018 9:11 pm

U.S. couple killed by ISIS in Tajikistan were on dream cycling vacation

A dream come true turned into tragedy for a couple from Washington, D.C. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan quit their jobs and set out on a cycling adventure around the world. But in Tajikistan, they crossed paths with supporters of the so-called Islamic State. Mike Drolet has more on how the couple is being remembered.

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Two Americans killed by the so-called Islamic State while cycling around the world are being remembered as free spirits.

Lauren Geoghegan and her boyfriend Jay Austin, both 29 years old, were cycling through Tajikistan with a group of foreigners when a car rammed into the group. The duo from Washington, D.C., was 369 days into their trip.

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Five men got out and attacked the tourists with knives. One Dutch and one Swiss national were also killed along with the American couple.

Tajik authorities blamed the attack on an Islamic separatist group, but ISIS took responsibility in a video showing the five alleged attackers.

Geoghegan and Austin set out from the U.S. in July 2017 and chronicled their adventures on a blog called SimplyCycling.

Austin explained their decision to leave, writing: “I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige.”

“Maybe it sounds crazy to others, but to me, it sounds exactly like who they were,” said Tiffany del Rio, a friend of the couple.

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The trip was an example of Geoghegan’s “openness to new people and places, and her quest for a better understanding of the world,” Robert and Elvira Geoghegan, Lauren’s parents, said in a statement to CBS.

The couple’s adventures took them through Africa, Europe, and eventually Central Asia.

Their blog showcased many acts of kindness, like the time they said a stranger pulled their vehicle over to offer the couple ice cream bars or when young girls offered them flowers.

It led Austin to write: “You’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. ‘People,’ the narrative goes, ‘are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.’ I don’t buy it.”

Their last photos show a wide open world, filled with strangers and smiles — the opposite of how they died.

A memorial to the cyclists has been set up at the U.S. embassy in Tajikistan.

Two women lay flowers and sign a book of condolences at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe on July 31, 2018, in tribute to the victims of a deadly attack. Two Americans, along with a Swiss and a Dutch national, were struck by a car and attacked on July 29 while on a popular cycling route in the Danghara district, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Dushanbe.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

This was the first known attack of its kind against Western tourists in Tajikistan, a remote ex-Soviet state located north of Afghanistan in the towering mountains where Islamist militants fought an insurgency against a Moscow-backed government in the 1990s.

Security forces killed four suspected attackers on Monday and detained one. In a statement on Tuesday, the interior ministry said it had detained four more suspects and blamed the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan for the attack.

In this photo taken on Sunday, July 29, bicycles are left where four tourists were killed when a car rammed into a group of foreigners south of the capital of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a car-and-knife attack on Western tourists cycling in the country that killed two Americans and two Europeans.

(AP Photo/Zuly Rahmatova)

—With files from Mike Drolet 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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