Nine killed as Uzbeks revolt
Nine killed as Uzbeks revolt
Friday May 13, 2005
At least nine people have been killed in Uzbekistan
after demonstrators clashed with security forces and
freed prison inmates in protest at the trial of 23
local Muslim businessmen.
The Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, blocked foreign
news broadcasts as the country appeared to plunge into
chaos. Armed crowds had surrounded police officers in
parts of the eastern city of Andijan and talks were
under way to free them, Mr Karimov's office said.
The government said it remained in control of Andijan
as Mr Karimov and other top officials rushed to the
In the capital, Tashkent, a man described as a suicide
bomber was shot and killed outside the Israeli embassy
this morning, according to the US embassy. However, an
Uzbek police official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said the man had been carrying only wooden
objects that appeared to be explosives. No other
casualties were reported in the incident.
The clashes in Andijan had killed nine people and
wounded at least 34, Mr Karimov's office said. Armed
protesters had tried, unsuccessfully, to attack the
local security forces' office and local administration
building, it added. Witnesses said security forces had
fired in the air as thousands of activists rallied to
protest the trial of the Muslim businessmen, who are
charged with extremism.
"The people have risen," said Valijon Atakhonjonov,
the brother of one of the defendants in the trial in
Andijan. He said several thousand people were rallying
outside the local administration building and that
their demands were economic: more jobs and a general
improvement in the regional and national economies. No
police or other officials could be seen, he said.
Mr Atakhonjonov described chaos in the streets of
Andijan in the early morning, with shots being fired
into the air and thousands of people massing in front
of the local administration building. However, a
government spokesman in Andijan said city and regional
administrative buildings remained under government
The city was surrounded by new police checkpoints, and
parked trucks filled with sand blocked all approaches.
By mid-morning, the streets were largely empty outside
the city centre except for soldiers and armoured
Mr Karimov and other leaders were in Andijan, the
president's office said. Police and government
officials said the defence ministry was holding an
urgent meeting in Tashkent.
Officials cut all foreign TV news programming,
including CNN and the BBC, replacing it with Uzbek and
foreign entertainment channels.
Armed demonstrators had gone to a prison to free
inmates overnight, Mr Atakhonjonov said. The 23
defendants in the trial are charged with
anti-constitutional activity and forming a criminal
and extremist organisation. Rights activists, however,
say the case is part of a broad government crackdown
on religious dissent. All of the defendants pleaded
not guilty at their trial, which opened February 10.
Several thousand people joined a protest on Wednesday
demanding that the 23 men be freed in one of the
largest recent public shows of mounting anger over
alleged rights abuses by the former Soviet republic's
The men, arrested in June, are accused of being
members of the Akramia religious group and having
contacts with the outlawed radical Islamic party
Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The authorities accuse Hizb-ut-Tahrir
of inspiring terror attacks in Uzbekistan last year
that killed more than 50 people. The group denied
Akramia unites followers of the jailed Uzbek Islamic
dissident Akram Yuldashev, who was accused of calling
for the overthrow of the country's secular government,
an accusation he denies. The group's members are
considered the backbone of Andijan's small business
community, giving employment to thousands of people in
the impoverished and densely populated Fergana Valley.