Police, militia confront looters in Bishkek, leaders say city now calm

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

File photo of Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan Source: Hunne

A 6:00 p.m.-6:00 a.m. curfew was imposed in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Friday night as policemen and some 2,000 voluntary civilian militia members patrolled the streets. They were authorized to shoot into the air to disperse the looters.

Three to six people were killed as sporadic gunfire was heard in the capital overnight, and 129 people were detained.

Felix Kulov, newly appointed coordinator of law-enforcement, said of the situation on Friday, "The city looks as if it has gone mad."

However, after the night's events, he was confident that the situation had improved. "The situation is fully under control. We do not need a curfew," he said Saturday morning.

"Voluntary people's militia groups and units of the Kel-Kel opposition youth organization are responsible for maintaining order in the city," a source within the Interior Ministry told Interfax.

The opposition has now claimed that it did not originally intend to seize government buildings in Bishkek on March 24.

"On March 24 we didn't plan to seize the government headquarters in Bishkek, we were getting together for a peaceful rally. But when stones started flying at the rally, the people blew up and seized the Kyrgyzstan government headquarters," Rosa Otunbayeva, newly appointed minister of foreign affairs, told a news conference on Friday.

Akayev vows to return

The flag of Kyrgyzstan Source: SKopp

Deposed president Askar Akayev claimed that he had not resigned and vowed to return to the country in the future, in a statement released to ITAR-TASS.

"The rumours about my resignation from the presidential post are deceitful and malevolent," he said in the statement. "Under the circumstances I decided to temporarily leave the country to avoid bloodshed."

Akayev stressed, "my present stay out of the country is a temporary occurrence."

Interfax reports that Akayev flew to Russia from Kazakhstan Friday night. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Akayev would be welcome in Russia.

Borders closed

China closed its border with Kyrgyzstan temporarily, until March 28, following similar closings by the countries of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Tajikistan has left some crossings open but has tightened security.

Many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and China have issued travel advisories, advising their citizens not to travel to Kyrgyzstan because of the unrest.

Officials with the State Department say the United States accepts the "realities on the ground" and will work with the interim Kyrgyz authorities to build democratic institutions.

The European Union called for the people of Kyrgzstan to behave "responsibly" and offered to cooperate with the new leaders.

Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief, also added that "The EU will continue to support the efforts of the OSCE mission in Bishkek."

Russia has said that part of the responsibility for triggering the uprising lies with the OSCE. Russian ambassador to the OSCE, Alexei Borodavkin, told AFP that the OSCE report on shortcomings in the Kyrgyz parliamentary elections in February and March of 2005 had "to some extent, triggered the unrest."

Russia has also called the revolution "illegal," although Russian authorities have also offered to cooperate with the interim Kyrgyz authorities.

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