New Kyrgz interior minister says force may be used, riot police clash with protesters in Bishkek

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The flag of Kyrgyzstan Source: SKopp

About 200 riot police violently broke up a peaceful, anti-Akayev protest of some 300 to 400 people and arrested 20 to 30 protesters in the capital city of Bishkek on Wednesday, just hours after President Askar Akayev appointed head of police in the city, Keneshbek Dushebayev, as new interior minister.

"Our primary task is to restore constitutional order in all regions," the new interior minister said. "The law gives us every right to take action, including by using physical force... and firearms."

Akayev has previously stated that he would not resort to force to end protests.

Akayev dismissed Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov and the general prosecutor, Myktybek Abdyldayev, earlier in the day. According to a spokesman for Akayev, Abdil Seghizbayev, the dismissals were for issues relating "to the events in the south and their poor work on preventing those events."

Seghizbayev stated that Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev would visit the southern city of Osh for negotiations on Thursday, but said there would not be talks with "criminal groups that are controlling the situation there."

File photo of Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan Source: Hunne

Elsewhere in Bishkek, approximately 10,000 people held a pro-government demonstration as riot police guarded key government buildings and main roads were sealed off. Several demonstrators said they had been coerced into taking part.

"Our classes were cancelled and we were told to be here at the meeting in support of Akayev," a Kyrgyz National University student said.

"We are protesting instead of working now," said an employee of the interior ministry at the rally.

Neighboring Tajikistan also sealed border crossing points from Kyrgyzstan into the country because of the unrest.

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