Friday, April 9, 2010

Bloody Overthrow in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz opposition claims control

The opposition in Kyrgyzstan says it is setting up a "people's government" after deadly clashes left some 65 dead.

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Ex-Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva told the BBC that new defence and interior ministers had been appointed.

The opposition says President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has left the capital, Bishkek, to rally support in his home region of Jalalabad. This has not been confirmed.

There has been no word from Mr Bakiyev since violent clashes spread to the capital on Wednesday.

The scene in Bishkek on Thursday morning was calm, with the opposition apparently in control of the government headquarters.

Speaking at a packed news conference, Ms Otunbayeva said parliament had been dissolved.

She said an interim government - which would remain in power for six months - was fully in control of the country and had appointed new ministers.

Mr Bakiyev had not yet resigned, she said, but was believed to have returned to Jalalabad, in the south of the country, to try to rally support.

"We want to negotiate his resignation," Reuters news agency quotes her as saying. "His business here is over."

The BBC's Rayhan Demytrie in Bishkek says Mr Bakiyev has a large support base in the south where Osh, the country's second city, is located.

It has yet to be seen how many people there will turn out for the president and whether Mr Bakiyev will try to fight back with their support.

Kyrgyzstan is a strategically important Central Asian state and houses a Russian base and a key US military base that supplies forces in Afghanistan. The US has suspended military flights.

Ms Otunbayeva said these military bases could continue as before.

She is expected to address parliament later.

Domestic affair?

The United States said on Wednesday it deplored the violence and urged "respect for the rule of law".

AT THE SCENE
Rayhan Demytrie, BBC News, Bishkek

People are waking up to a sense of uncertainty.

I've just been to the White House, the main administrative building. There are hundreds of people gathering there and they want to know what to do next. There are still no leaders to be seen.

We've seen lots of burned cars, and a portrait of President Bakiyev that has been daubed with red paint - the result of widespread looting that has been going on around the capital.

We stopped at what was one of the biggest shopping malls in Bishkek and there was total chaos - not a single item left on the shelves, and glass everywhere.

Shopkeepers told us it was difficult to imagine the damage done to their businesses.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin denied that Moscow had played any role in the unrest, saying it was a "domestic affair" and that there should be "restraint".

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the protests showed the "outrage at the existing regime".

A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said the UN secretary general was "shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred" in Kyrgyzstan.

"He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed."

There was widespread looting and gunfire during the night in Bishkek.

The Kyrgyz health ministry said 40 people had died in the clashes and more than 400 were injured.

But the opposition said that figure was far too low. In a broadcast on a TV channel it took over, spokesman Omurbek Tekebayev said at least 100 demonstrators had been killed.

The Associated Press news agency reported that an opposition leader had taken over the National Security Agency, the successor to the Soviet KGB.

The Kyrgyz border control was quoted as saying that the frontier with Kazakhstan had been closed.

Curfews

TIMELINE: KYRGYZSTAN UNREST
  • March 2005: Protests over disputed parliamentary election lead to fall of President Askar Akayev; Kurmanbek Bakiyev appointed acting president and PM
  • July 2005: Mr Bakiyev elected president by a landslide
  • May 2006: Mass protests demand constitutional reform and more action to combat corruption
  • October 2007: Referendum approves constitutional changes, which the opposition present as a step towards authoritarianism
  • December 2007: Mr Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party wins parliamentary poll; opposition left with no seats
  • July 2009: Mr Bakiyev re-elected in vote criticised by monitors
  • January 2010: Opposition leader Ismail Isakov jailed for eight years for corruption, sparking opposition hunger strikes
  • April 2010: Clashes between police and anti-government protesters leave 65 dead
  • Mr Bakiyev came to power amid a wave of street protests in 2005 known as the Tulip Revolution, but many of his allies have deserted him claiming intimidation and corruption.

    The unrest broke out in the provincial town of Talas on Tuesday and spread to Bishkek and another town, Naryn, on Wednesday.

    All three were put under curfew.

    Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev, who was believed to have gone to Talas to calm the situation, was reportedly severely beaten.

    Initial reports that he had been killed by a mob were later denied.

    Police in Bishkek initially used tear gas and stun grenades to try to disperse protesters.

    But the demonstrators overcame the police and marched to the presidential offices in the city centre.

    Police cars were overturned and set alight and officers attacked by the crowd.

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