Uzbek rebel leader on horseback wants an Islamic state

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Map of Uzbekistan

Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, a rebel leader on horseback who claims control of an Uzbek town said the rebels are intent upon building an Islamic state.

"We will be building an Islamic state here in accordance with the Quran; the town is in the hands of people. People are tired of slavery," Rakhimov told The Associated Press on May 18th. "We will turn this land into gardens," he said. "If I turn this land into a good place, if everybody here will have plenty of food on the table, it will spread further."

Zakir Almatov, the Uzbek Interior Minister denied Rakhimov's claims. "It's all sheer nonsense, everything is normal there, if anything had happened there, I already would have been there." he said. But there were no Uzbek government officials to be found in Korasuv.

When asked whether the rebels belonged to an Islamic group Rakhimov said no, that "We are just people, we just follow the Quran."

When asked if he was afraid that government forces would be back to regain control of the town he said, "Soldiers and police are also sons of this people. We don't have weapons, but if they come and attack us we will fight even with knives."

Uzbekistan soldiers sealed off the eastern border town after locals took over government buildings last Saturday. The unrest spread from nearby Andijan, where local sources said several hundred people died when troops opened fire on protesters on Friday.

Some refugees near Korasuv said troops shot at them as they tried to cross the border into Kyrgyzstan - and some died.

U.K. Foreign Minister Jack Straw said his Uzbek counterpart had pledged to allow diplomats access to Andijan on Tuesday.

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