View Full Version : 100's Dead In Uzbekistan - Anti U.S. Protest

05-14-2005, 11:28 AM
'Islamists behind' Uzbek violence
Saturday, May 14, 2005 Posted: 9:31 AM EDT (1331 GMT)


(CNN) -- The president of Uzbekistan has blamed violence in the eastern city of Andijan on the Islamic radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir and said its goal was to establish an Islamic state and to destroy the current constitutional system.

Islam Karimov, speaking at a news conference in the capital Tashkent on Saturday, said he never gave an order to shoot as the unrest unfolded. He said 10 police were killed but on the criminal side "many many more were killed and hundreds wounded."

Human rights monitors said hundreds of people were killed by Uzbek government soldiers in the wake of Friday's violent anti-government protest in Andijan, Russia's Interfax news agency has reported.

An estimated 3,500 refugees fled Andijan Saturday, gathering a few miles to the south at the Kyrgyzstan border, which was finally opened to them, Interfax reported.

The unprecedented violence began early Thursday when a group of local citizens angry about the arrest of several prominent business owners stormed the prison where they were being held.

At one point, about 10,000 protesters gathered in the city center to demand the resignation of Karimov and his authoritarian government, who are allies of the United States. The president's office described them as criminals and extremists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Karimov Saturday to express deep concern over the "threat to the stability of Central Asia," according to the Kremlin press office.

Karimov provided the latest details to Putin on events in the Andijan. The instability in Uzbekistan follows the collapse and ouster of Askar Akayev's government in neighboring Kyrgyzstan in March during protests.

Hizb ut-Tahrir denied accusations it was behind the violence. "The blame ... has to be with Islam Karimov and his oppressive regime which has tortured and jailed thousands of innocent victims," Imran Wahid, a Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman in London, told Reuters.

"We want to undermine and overthrow the regime of Islam Karimov by peaceful means," he added. (Full story)

"The blame for the violence should not lie with people who live under oppression," he added.

Americans warned
Information about what happened late Friday and Saturday is sketchy since journalists, included one working for CNN, were escorted from the town by police on Saturday.

Interfax quoted Saijakhon Zainabitdinov, head of the Andizhan human rights group Appeal, concerning the death toll.

"Government troops opened fire on civilians on Friday evening and hundreds of people died. At dawn today, the dead bodies were taken away on five vehicles -- three Zil dump trucks, one Ural heavy truck and one bus. All of the vehicles were filled with bodies," Zainabitdinov said.

Another Interfax report quoting humanitarian relief organizations saying more than 3,500 people gathered at Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border and were finally allowed to cross over towards the Kyrgyz city of Osh.

The U.S. Embassy in the capital of Tashkent on Friday issued a warden's message, saying it had "confirmed with the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs that no one will be allowed to enter or exit the city of Andijan for the time being.

"American citizens in Andijan are encouraged to stay off the streets at this time. MFA also confirms that all border crossings are at the highest stages of alert, but Americans should be able to cross."

Radical Islamic militants have fought with Uzbek soldiers in the area for several years, but Bukharbaeva said the mostly young protesters, who have spoken over loudspeakers in the city center, denied they are connected to that rebel movement.

"They say they are not Islamic extremists. They are just ordinary people who are tired of unemployment, who are tired of injustice and they just want better living conditions," Galima Bukharbaeva, country director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Uzbekistan, told CNN.

She reported that demonstrators controlled the city center by midday Friday, with thousands surrounding the city government headquarters. She said the regional government headquarters and a theater were burning.

The unrest began early Friday morning when supporters of local businessmen who are on trial on charges of Islamic extremism stormed the prison where they were held, according to Bukharbaeva.

The government said the attackers stole dozens of weapons from a military camp early Friday, just before storming the prison and freeing inmates.

Interfax said Karimov traveled to Andijan held negotiations with people in the city.

The Uzbek government immediately suspended distribution of CNN and Russian television channels in the country, viewers in Tashkent told CNN.

Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic, allowed hundreds of U.S. troops to use a base near the Afghan border after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.