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18/12/04
How the Andijan killings unfolded - BBC Backgrounder
 
  
 

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4550845.stm

Hundreds of people are thought to have died when violence erupted in the Uzbek city of Andijan on Friday 13 May. The BBC News website has compiled this account of how events unfolded, based on media reports, eye-witnesses and official statements.

Thursday 12 MAY
People have been protesting peacefully outside a city court for four months over the trial of 23 local businessmen accused of Islamic extremism.

Protests had been mounting all week
Their families say the men are innocent and have been unfairly targeted. The BBC’s Jenny Norton describes the protesters as quiet, orderly and very well organised.
But late on Thursday evening, some of the protesters are arrested and taken to the town’s jail, according to Galima Bukharbaeva, country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

FRIDAY 13 MAY
Gunmen storm the jail in the early hours and free the 23 accused men, their supporters and scores of other inmates. A small number of people are reported killed during the violence. By early morning, several thousand people are gathered in the town’s main square.

Men armed with Kalashnikovs can be seen on the streets, but most demonstrators are ordinary people and the atmosphere is calm, says Galima Bukharbaeva. “They are holding meetings, and people are making speeches and talking about injustice and respect for human rights. It’s not just a political protest – it’s also social and economic.”

I’ve got three children, I was trying to cover them up, I was crying: take my life, don’t shoot my children

Eyewitness
Roads to the city centre are blocked and protesters control the area, including government offices. No security forces are in evidence, but government troops and tanks are said to be concentrated at the town’s airport.

The crowd on Andijan’s main square in front of the provincial administration building swells to about 10,000, the Ferghana.ru news agency’s correspondent reports at 1446 (0946 GMT), and speakers use a “free” microphone to vent anger at economic problems. Some chant slogans against President Islam Karimov and the Uzbek government.

Quoting “confidential information”, a correspondent for Uzbek freedom of speech group Arena is quoted by Ferghana.ru as saying security forces received orders to “eliminate” the group behind the storming of the prison and seizure of government buildings. Troops attack the administration building around 1800 local time.

The initial assault by security forces begins with a convoy of armoured vehicles opening fire on the crowd. Many people flee.

One woman later told the BBC: “We don’t know what happened to us. All of a sudden these heavy armoured vehicles came, we don’t know how it all happened, we are simple citizens, ordinary people. I don’t know if it was an armoured vehicle or a tank. A helicopter was flying above, and after this helicopter turned up above our heads, the shooting started. Can you imagine, they were shooting us from above, with our children. We lay on the ground, and panic broke out.”

Another woman told the BBC: “We never expected they would shoot at women and children. I’ve got three children, I was trying to cover them up. I was crying: ‘Take my life, don’t shoot my children.’”

Soldiers moved in soon before dark
A large number of protesters – including gunmen and 10 police officers who have been held hostage – moves from the city centre towards School No 15, just over 1km away, unnamed witnesses tell Reuters news agency.

An armoured car fires into the crowd outside the school.

A woman doctor in the town, identified only as Gulbohor, later tells the BBC she saw “at least 500" dead bodies at the school, which has been turned into a temporary morgue. Most of the dead are men, all of them adults. An unnamed man tells Reuters he saw “literally hundreds” of bodies.

Armed soldiers stand guard at the school, but people are being allowed in to identify relatives.

Reports later emerge that injured people were summarily executed, and that many bodies, especially of women and children, were taken away and concealed by the authorities, says Galima Bukharbaeva.

There is evidence to suggest government security forces carried out further killings once the mass shooting was over.

Once the crowd had dispersed, eyewitnesses say the security forces went around finishing off the injured as they lay on the ground.

A middle-aged woman who gave her first name as Muqaddas told IWPR that at 2100, uniformed men were still shooting anyone who was moving.

“I myself saw how before the assault, a truckload of vodka was delivered to the military servicemen,” she said. “They got drunk, and in this condition they shot and killed the wounded. In my presence, they shot down a woman with two small children.”

SATURDAY 14 MAY
On Saturday morning, the authorities cart off most of the bodies using three trucks and a bus, according to witnesses.

A secondary school, a technical college and local parks are turned into impromptu morgues. Hundreds of Andijan residents search for missing relatives – on Babur Square itself and later at the collection points.

President Karimov blamed the violence on Islamic extremists

The school is said to house the bodies of men only. The remains of women and children are out of sight – somewhere near the construction-industry college, local people say – and, unlike those of the men, are not being released to relatives.

President Karimov appears at a press conference in Tashkent. He blames the violence on Islamic extremists who he says used women, old men and children as a “human shield”. He puts the death toll at 10 soldiers and “many others”.

There are further demonstrations on the streets. A BBC News website reader in Andijan, who says he is a lawyer and former worker for a non-governmental organisation, says “police and soldiers fired towards peaceful people gathered for a meeting near the cinema. Without any warning soldiers fired towards women and children. Police took many men at the meeting to buses and we do not know what happened with them”.

A group of some 540 refugees – mostly men, with some women and small children – escape from Andijan at night on foot headed for the Kyrgyz border, says the BBC’s Ian MacWilliam.

They say several of their number are killed and others are wounded when Uzbek troops fire at them near a remote border crossing in the Kyrgyz region of Jalalabad. But they are allowed to cross by the Kyrgyz border guards and officials house them in a small encampment of tents in Kyrgyz territory.

One refugee tells the BBC: “We are fed up, we do not need such a state. We won’t go back to Andijan. Even if Kyrgyzstan shoot us dead here, we’ll stay here. But we won’t go back to Andijan. We will die for our children, to save them.”

SUNDAY 15 MAY
The BBC’s Sharifjon Akhmedov describes the scene in Andijan two days on.

Funerals continued for several days
“I can still see the traces of blood on the street around me. They’ve tried to wash it all away but you can still see the blood and bits of hair on the tarmac. There are bullet holes in the telegraph poles and trees,” he says.

The 50-year-old father of one missing man says: “Karimov’s people shot women and children. I saw young men with their hands up, shouting ‘Don’t shoot’. But they just shot them.”

    
 
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