Uzbek units linked to deadly crackdown got U.S. training - IHT, France
- Uzbek units linked to deadly crackdown got U.S.
By C.J. Chivers and Thom Shanker The New York Times
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2005
MOSCOW Uzbek law enforcement and security ministries
implicated by witnesses in a deadly crackdown in the
city of Andijon last month have for years received
training and equipment from counterterrorism programs
run by the United States, according to American
officials and congressional records.
The security aid, provided by several U.S. agencies,
has been intended, in part, to improve the
capabilities of soldiers and law enforcement officers
in the Uzbek intelligence service, military and the
Ministry of Internal Affairs - Uzbekistan's national
law enforcement service. In addition to equipment aid,
hundreds of special forces soldiers and security
officers, many of whom fight terrorism, have received
Witnesses and American officials say that the Uzbek
Army, law enforcement and intelligence service were
all present at the crackdown. Among them was a special
Internal Affairs counterterrorism unit known as Bars,
which has two or three members who were trained in a
course, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, for
crisis-response commanders in Louisiana in 2004,
according to the State Department.
It is not clear whether these specific officers were
present in Andijon, although their unit was. Several
U.S. officials said they had no evidence that any of
the hundreds of individual troops or security officers
with American training participated in the violence.
At the same time, however, they said they were not
certain that no American-trained personnel were
The uncertainty, officials said, is one reason an
independent investigation of the violence is
"Until Uzbek authorities allow an independent and
credible investigation to occur, we cannot know who
was responsible or was involved," said Tom Casey, a
State Department spokesman.
Hundreds of civilians were killed when Uzbek forces
fired into dense crowds on May 13, according to
survivors and human rights organizations. The
crackdown, which the Uzbek government has described as
a counterterrorism operation, crushed an
anti-government rally that was prompted by an armed
uprising and a prison break. The Uzbek government has
said that 173 people were killed.
The participation of ministries that have received
American aid underscores the implicit U.S. gamble in
security engagement with a repressive state.
The United States has worked closely with Uzbekistan,
a corrupt and autocratic state with a chilling human
rights record, in the fight against international
terrorism. It has also tried to professionalize the
Uzbek military, improve its border security and help
secure materials that could be used in nuclear,
chemical or biological weapons - areas of engagement
that American officials say are of clear interest to
the United States.
But such policies can backfire, improving the martial
abilities of units that could commit crimes against
Uzbek citizens, and associating the United States with
repression in the eyes of Uzbek people and the Islamic
world. Uzbekistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country
with severe restrictions on freedoms of worship and
Survivors, diplomats and American officials have said
in interviews that the ministry, run by Colonel
General Zakirdzhon Almatov, provided principal units
involved in the crackdown.
Almatov was present in Andijon on May 13, and he
negotiated by telephone with Abdulzhon Parpiev, a
leader of the uprising, according to a survivor who
witnessed the conversations and a senior diplomat in
Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because of his posting in the repressive state, said
Almatov and President Islam Karimov coordinated the
actions of Uzbek forces that day.
Among forces under Almatov's command were two special
counterterrorism units, Bars and Skorpion, according
to survivors, a relative of a Bars members, a Bars
driver and several Uzbeks familiar with the crackdown,
all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity out of
fear for their safety. American military officials say
they have information that those units were present.
Bars, which survivors said was particularly active, is
thought to have at least 300 members. It had
previously worked in the Fergana Valley, a region
raided in the past by guerrillas from the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan, a group with links to Al
Much about the crackdown remains unknown. The list of
units present and names of their commanders have not
been made public. Nor has the nature of orders and
roles of specific units in the worst hours of violence
C.J. Chivers reported from Moscow and Kyrgyzstan and
Thom Shanker from Washington. Additional reporting was
contributed by Ethan Wilensky-Lanford in Kyrgyzstan
and Tashkent, and Alain Delaqueriere in New York.
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