Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan

Friday, May 13, 2005

Andijan (also spelled Andijon), Uzbekistan: Nine Dead, Prisoners Released, Many Injured: RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY

RFERL reports the following:

The Uzbek government says nine people have been killed and another 34 wounded in unrest in Andijan. The troubles started after rioters stormed a high-security prison overnight, freeing hundreds of prisoners and triggering exchanges of gunfire with security guards and police forces.

Protesters are demanding the release of 23 businessmen on trial for allegedly belonging to the banned Islamist group Akramiya. The defendants say the charges are politically and economically motivated.

Sharipjon Shakirov, who served four years in prison on charges of belonging to Akramiya, spoke to RFE/RL from the regional administration building in Andijan. He confirmed that mediation talks have begun.

"Yes, they are holding talks," Shakirov said. "[Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir] Almatov is talking. He speaks on behalf of President [Islam Karimov]. On our side, Parpiev Qobiljon is talking to them."

Eyewitnesses report several buildings in Andijan are on fire and demonstrators are picketing the regional administration's headquarters.

One of the protesters told RFE/RL that they are holding a number of policemen hostage.

Another unnamed protester, reportedly occupying the Andijan mayor's office, told RFE/RL the protesters want Russian mediation in the crisis. "We have peaceful demands," the protester said. "[Among them], we call on the Russian government to get involved in the events that are happening in the city of Andijan because [the Russian government] knows well the problems we have."



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