Kyrgyz violence continues, at least 47 killed

09:30, April 08, 2010      

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At least 47 people were killed and over 400 others were injured in violent clashes between anti-government protestors and police in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, officials said.

According to Health Ministry officials, the death toll would continue to rise. Earlier, the Health Ministry put the number at 40.

Meanwhile, the opposition has said around 100 people had been killed.

Opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev said in a television program on Wednesday that about 100 people were killed in violent clashes between anti-government protestors and police in the capital city.

In the televised address, Tekebayev asked the government to step down.

Meanwhile, head of press-service of the Interior Ministry Rahmatillo Ahmedov said that Interior Minister Moldomussa Kongantiyev is still alive, denying earlier reports that he was killed in the riots after being taken hostage by opposition protesters in the northern city of Talas.

Kongantiyev was held hostage inside the building of the city's interior department after it was seized by protesters, according to local media.

Kyrgyz First Vice Prime Minister Akylbek Japarov was also taken hostage by protesters Wednesday at a square in Talas, witnesses told Xinhua.

According to the latest developments, the country's national TV channels have suspended operation after protesters reportedly stormed into the national TV and radio building and took it over.

Kyrgyzstan's Manas international airport will be temporarily closed for twelve hours from 8:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) due to the escalating unrest between anti-government protesters and police.

A Xinhua reporter, who reported from the clash scene, and other witnesses saw bodies in the skirmishes.

The Xinhua reporter, who was staying inside the presidential office after an interview with the prime minister earlier in the day, saw many protesters clashing fiercely with police officers outside the presidential office.

Police were seen firing warning shots into the sky and the crowd, and explosions could be heard. Many protesters fought back by hurling bottles and stones at riot police holding shields. Several vehicles were set on fire.

Outside the presidential office, police were blocking protesters and establishing a new security belt. The roads in the city center were closed and vehicles were forbidden. More police troops were rushing toward the presidential office, witnesses said.

Bakiyev has ordered a state of emergency in Bishkek and three other cities, local television reported.

Amid waves of opposition protests in the Kyrgyz capital and elsewhere, Bakiyev also ordered a curfew between local time 10:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) Wedneday and 6:00 a.m. Thursday (0000 GMT) in Bishkek.

The Kyrgyz parliament is scheduled to sit on Thursday. Sources told Xinhua that the parliament might convene an emergency session Wednesday night on the president's order.

Opposition supporters marched toward the presidential office in the city center from different directions in the morning. Some protesters seized quite a few police vehicles and drove them toward the presidential office.

The protesters were attempting to storm into the building, and were demanding negotiations with President Bakiyev and Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov. They threatened to occupy the presidential office if their demands were not met.

In a related development, the regional government buildings in Naryn and Chui states were overrun by protesters earlier Wednesday, witnesses told Xinhua.

About 3,000 protestors gathered at a central square in the provincial capital of Naryn.

The U.S. embassy in Bishkek Wednesday urged the Kyrgyz government and protesters to start negotiations as early as possible.

The U.S. embassy said in a statement that the U.S. government was deeply concerned about the latest unrest in some Kyrgyz cities.

The statement hoped that all the parties concerned in Kyrgyzstan would abide by law, begin talks as soon as possible, and solve their rifts within the framework of law.

Earlier, Russia urged restraint between Kyrgyz authorities and the opposition and called on them to resolve their disputes through democratic means instead of violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said he was "shocked" over the deadly clash in Kyrgyzstan and appealed for concerned parties to "show restraint."

"The secretary-general is shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred today in Kyrgyzstan," said a statement issued by Ban's spokesman.

"He once again calls on all concerned to show restraint," the statement said, "He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed."

The unrest on Wednesday came one day after Tuesday's violence in the northern Kyrgyz town of Talas, during which at least 15 police officers were missing, 16 civilians and 85 policemen were injured, Prime Minister Usenov said.

The unrest broke out after the head and deputy head of the main opposition Ata-Meken party were arrested Tuesday. Kyrgyz authorities said the unrest had been put under control.

Usenov told an urgent parliamentary meeting that the country's situation is still under the control of his government and that the government will never negotiate with "rioters."

Meanwhile, more than 10 opposition leaders have been set free by the government after a large number of protestors gathered outside the building where they were held.

The government released opposition leader Isa Omurkulov, a member of the Social Democratic party, along with Temir Sariyev and several others, the Reuters news agency reported.

Source: Xinhua


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