Government Buildings Retaken In Kyrgyzstan

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staphni
A chaotic day of deadly street violence in southern Kyrgyzstan on Friday ended with the interim government retaking control of administration buildings in two southern cities.

A chaotic day of deadly street violence in southern Kyrgyzstan on Friday ended with the interim government retaking control of administration buildings in two southern cities. The buildings had been taken over a day earlier by followers of the former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was toppled in an uprising a month ago. The interim government that took power in the wake of that unrest has consolidated power in the capital but still has a tenuous hold on the south, the homeland and stronghold of Mr. Bakiyev.

At least one person was killed and 37 wounded on Friday.

The interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, blamed Mr. Bakiyev on Friday for the uprising in the south, the most serious challenge yet to the new government. A former adviser of Mr. Bakiyev was arrested and accused of fomenting unrest.

Omurbek Tekebayev, a deputy chairman of the interim government, said on television “Bakiyev is behind all this,” Reuters reported.

The task of freeing the administration buildings in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad fell to crowds of haphazardly armed civilian supporters of the new government.

Government officials Thursday said they would not use police force, but instead instigate a counter-protest. The result was a strange tableau of violence with the pro-government groups — some peaceful and some armed with sticks, rocks and rifles — storming the government buildings, while uniformed police and special forces largely stayed on the sidelines, witnesses said.

The loyalty of those forces in the south has been in question.

Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, is the home of a base used to supply the United States-led war in Afghanistan.

The worst violence on Friday unfolded in Jalalabad, near the former president’s home village.

The first shots there were fired as a group of pro-government protesters walked toward the administration building, Asylbek Tekebayev, a supporter of the interim government and regional party boss, said in a telephone interview.

Though they knew those in the building were armed, the marchers were probing the willingness of those in the building to open fire, he said.

“It was horrible,” Mr. Tekebayev said. “The bullets were hitting people in the back, in the side, they were falling and tripping, and everybody started to run.” By late afternoon, the crowd that Mr. Tekebayev said included at least a half dozen men with rifles regrouped and succeeded in marching on the building.

The Kyrgyz health ministry said hospitals in Jalalabad admitted 37 people wounded in the fighting. The ministry said one man had died from his wounds and that five were in grave condition.

An political party leader loyal to in the interim government in the south, Batyrbek Abdrazakov, said that by evening pro-government forces had full control over the government building, the Interfax news agency reported.

The United States Embassy in Bishkek, the capital, issued a statement calling for restraint on both sides. “We continue to encourage all parties to refrain from violence and express hope that Kyrgyzstan can move forward on a productive and democratic path.”

After storming the buildings Thursday, a committee that said it represented Mr. Bakiyev’s supporters issued a statement in which it claimed to have wide support in the south and called for his return to power.

Demonstrators had shoved their way into buildings in the cities of Osh, Jalalabad and Batken, the three regional capitals of southern Kyrgyzstan, which is separated from the capital and the north of the country by a rugged mountain chain. In Batken, the protesters eventually left the building.

After taking over the government building in Osh on Thursday, demonstrators escorted the former governor, Mamasadyk Bakirov, back into his office, which had been occupied by an appointee of the interim government earlier in the day.

To try to re-establish control over the south, the defense minister, Ismail Isakov, was sent to Osh and granted new powers as a governor general for the three southern districts, according to Edil Baisalov, the chief of staff of the interim government. One of Mr. Isakov’s goals had been to rally unarmed civilian supporters to clear the seized buildings, Mr. Baisalov said.

After protesters seized government buildings last month in Bishkek, including the president’s office, Mr. Bakiyev fled to the south before going into exile. During that takeover, 86 people died when police officers and soldiers guarding the government buildings in the capital fired at protesters, some of them also armed.

Source : nytimes