Clashes in Kyrgyzstan kill 1, injure more than 30 people in battle to control gov’t building
May 14. Associated Press. JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan
Gunfire erupted in Kyrgyzstan on Friday as hundreds of interim government backers fought supporters of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev for control over regional government buildings, killing at least one and injuring more than 30 people in the worst violence since last month’s forceful government change.
The opponents exchanged gunshots, hurled stones and fought with sticks on a square in front of the regional government building in Jalal-Abad.
Several hundred Bakiyev supporters, some with automatic rifles, holed up in the building overnight after capturing it Thursday evening, but backers of the interim government drove them out Friday after hours of tense confrontation.
Earlier in the day, the interim government’s backers also ejected a pro-Bakiyev crowd that had occupied the regional government offices in Osh, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Jalal-Abad. The two parties threw rock at one another, but there were no serious injuries there.
Both cities are in Kyrgyzstan’s south, the power base for Bakiyev, who was ousted April 7 amid clashes in the capital between government forces and protesters that left at least 85 people dead.
The prospect of further disturbances in the Central Asian nation will cause alarm in Washington and Moscow, which both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan.
The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek voiced concern about the violence and urged parties to refrain from violence.
In Jalal-Abad, about 4,000 backers of the Ata-Meken party that supports the interim government arrived early Friday to try to evict the occupiers, but many dispersed when gunfire broke out, leaving a crowd of several hundred.
Some men in the approaching mob returned fire, while others fought with sticks. At least 1 person was killed and another 37 people hospitalized with injuries incurred in the clash, including five in critical condition, the Health Ministry said.
During a second major wave of the gunfire exchange in the afternoon, an Associated Press reporter saw one man hit by a bullet in the shoulder.
While the provisional authorities are struggling to restore control over the entire country, the overwhelming number of interim government backers in Friday’s clashes indicate they enjoy considerable popular support.
Despite concerns that anti-government protests might also be held in the capital, Bishkek, there were no signs of disturbances by Friday afternoon.
Outside parliament, about 400 supporters of the Ata-Meken party backing the interim government rallied in support of the government, while other party activists marched around the city waving red flags.
In a related development, prosecutors revealed the details Friday of what they said was a wiretapped telephone exchange between a former senior adviser to Bakiyev, Usen Sydykov, and an anti-government member of parliament discussing the organization of rallies in southern Kyrgyzstan.
General Prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov said Sydykov — widely viewed in Kyrgyzstan as an influential behind-the-scenes power broker — is heard issuing instructions for the seizure of administrative buildings in Osh and Jalal-Abad.
Sydykov has been arrested for his involvement in the clashes, Beknazarov said.
Beknazarov said militia groups had been formed in all regions of the country to prevent more riots by Bakiyev supporters.
Speaking at an emergency government meeting, acting security services director Keneshbek Duishebayev accused members of Bakiyev’s family, in particular his oldest son, Marat, of fomenting instability.
Duishebayev said Marat Bakiyev, who was deputy head of the KGB successor agency until his father’s ouster, is based in neighboring Kazakhstan and has provided $1 million to fund public disturbances.
Despite the clashes across the south, the interim government has regained control of most areas, he said.
“The interim government has the situation under total control, with the exception of Jalal-Abad,” Duishebayev said. “Within one day, we will settle the situation in Jalal-Abad.”