Kyrgyz police quash protest, say foil coup
By Olga Dzyubenko 1 hour, 32 minutes ago
BISHKEK (Reuters) - More than 1,000 Kyrgyz troops
fired tear gas on Friday to drive protesters from a
key state building, foiling what the government said
was an attempt by supporters of the ousted president
to regain power.
Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev blamed the riots on
followers of his predecessor Askar Akayev, who fled
into exile after a coup in March, and said he would
personally defend his government "with a gun in my
hands if necessary."
The Central Asian nation of 5 million has been
unstable since Akayev's ousting, and was further
jolted by an uprising last month in neighboring
Uzbekistan, where troops killed hundreds of
demonstrators in the town of Andizhan. Dozens of
refugees fled to Kyrgyzstan.
Police in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek drove the
protesters out of the government building and chased
them through nearby streets, shooting in the air and
firing tear gas.
The protests were sparked by the exclusion of would-be
opposition candidate Urmatbek Baryktabasov from
running in presidential elections next month.
Electoral officials said he is a Kazakh citizen and
"The republic has the strength to halt activities
aimed at harming our citizens. If there are such
attempts, they will get a forceful response," Bakiyev
told reporters after a closed parliament discussion of
"Today's events were organized by people close to
Akayev," said Bakiyev. Parliamentary deputies linked
Baryktabasov to Akayev's son-in-law, who is wanted by
Kyrgyz police keen to investigate his business
The crowds had dispersed by evening, although around
half the city center's shops were closed, their owners
scared of a repetition of the looting that followed
the March coup.
Around 1,000 soldiers and police ringed the main
government building. Hundreds of civilians in pink arm
bands volunteered to defend the building and sat
behind its high fence.
"All these misguided people, and there were 5,000 of
them if not more, have been thrown out of the city. We
have detained around 300 of them," Acting Interior
Minister Muratbek Sutalinov told Reuters outside the
"An attempt was made to seize the government buiding
and probably state power in the country as a whole,"
The head of the central electoral commission,
Tuigunaaly Abdraimov, told reporters the riots could
complicate the July 10 presidential polls, which
Bakiyev is overwhelming favorite to win.
Bakiyev pledged that he would not allow the government
to be overthrown, and the vote would go ahead as
"I will not run away ... And I will defend this
government with a gun in my hands if necessary. I know
how to use a gun," he said.
(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov)