784Uzbek troops shut off second town
- May 16, 2005http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4549873.stm
Uzbek troops shut off second town
Troops in Uzbekistan have shut off the eastern town of
Korasuv, where locals took control on Saturday.
The unrest had spread from nearby Andijan, where
protests over the trial of 23 local businessmen turned
bloody on Friday after troops opened fire.
Several hundred people were killed during Friday's
protests, according to local doctors and NGOs.
UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw said his Uzbek
counterpart had pledged to allow diplomats access to
Andijan on Tuesday.
Mr Straw made the comments at a news conference in
London, where he repeated his condemnation of Friday's
events, telling reporters that the violence "cannot be
Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov said 10 soldiers
and "many more" protesters were killed in Andijan, and
blamed the unrest on Islamic extremists.
The protests were sparked by a long-running trial of
local businessmen accused of Islamic extremism. Their
families say they are innocent and have been unfairly
There is also long-term pent-up anger in Uzbekistan
regarding poverty, unemployment and other social
On Saturday, as news of the violence in Andijan
filtered into Korasuv, local people went to the mayor
demanding that a border crossing to the Kyrgyz side of
the town, shut down by the authorities two years ago,
Correspondents say locals saw the closed border as an
attempt to grind them down by denying them access to
the thriving market on the other side.
When the mayor refused, he was beaten. Angry crowds
set fire to the militia headquarters, the road police
and the tax inspector's office - the three most
visible representatives of the central government.
Uzbek troops have since rebuilt two bridges over the
border, but have set up checkpoints on the roads
leading into Korasuv to seal off the area.
Korasuv residents have been meeting to discuss how to
run their own affairs. The town is currently reported
to be calm, but there is apprehension that the central
authorities may move to take control, says the BBC's
Ian MacWilliam in Kyrgyzstan.
He says the Korasuv unrest is exactly the kind of
local rebellion the Uzbek government hoped to prevent
by a show of force in Andijan.
Some 500 people have fled over the Uzbek border
towards Kyrgyzstan. It is not clear how many of them
were involved in the Andijan demonstration.
A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, Peter
Kessler, said the authorities in Kyrgyzstan were
preparing for large numbers of refugees from
He said several dozen of those that had already
crossed the border were wounded.
Andijan itself is reported to be quiet, with soldiers
and tanks patrolling the streets.
But the BBC's Monica Whitlock, in Tashkent, says
prices are rising fast in Andijan because roads into
the town are blocked and traders are afraid to cross
Since poverty was one of the chief reasons why so many
people protested on Friday, this is a very important
issue, our correspondent says.