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Nine killed as Uzbeks revolt

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1483383,00.html Nine killed as Uzbeks revolt Friday May 13, 2005 At least nine people have been killed in
    Message 1 of 1 , May 13, 2005

      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
      personnel carriers.

      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.
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