Asia News and Analysis
Sunday, May 15, 2005 12:48 PM
Karimov blames unrest on radical group as thousands try to flee Uzbekistan
UPDATED: 10:40, May 15, 2005
Uzbek President Islam Karimov said Saturday a branch of the outlawed radical Hizb ut-Tahrir group was behind the unrest in Andijan that killed 10 government troops and many more protesters Friday, the Interfax news agency reported.
“The organizers of the unrest were ‘Akramites,’ a new offshoot of the Hizb ut-Tahrir group. Its goals, which are unacceptable for us, are hatred and denial of the secular way of development,” Karimov told a press conference in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
“According to the information we have, they are brainwashing young people with ideas of creating a unified Islamic state,” Karimov said.
The radical Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir group was also held responsible by the Uzbek government for murdering dozens of people in Uzbekistan last year.
As Karimov laid the blame on the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, about 5,000 refugees gathered at the Uzbek border town of Kara-Su, 50 km east of Andijan.
More than 500 Uzbek refugees have forced their way into Kyrgyzstan, who were staying peacefully in the Osh region and did not make any political demands, Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Miroslav Niyazov said.
Government troops are advancing on the town of Kara-Su, where several hundred local residents seized administrative buildings Saturday and set ablaze police stations.
Armed protesters began to rally in Andijan Wednesday to demand the release of 23 men who have been on trial since February for links to the Hizb ut-Tahrir group but have pleaded not guilty.
Violence culminated days of protest Friday with witnesses reporting vehicles and a theater being torched and bloodshed in clashes near a downtown square. Karimov said 10 government troops and many more protesters were killed and at least 100 people were wounded in the violence. He said no one ordered the soldiers to fire on the crowd.
On Saturday, hundreds gathered again at the square, but an Uzbek Interior Ministry spokesman told Interfax that most of them had left by nightfall.
Karimov described the developments in Andijan as an attempt to copy the recent events in Kyrgyzstan. “We realize that such developments spill across the borders to the territories of neighboring countries,” he said.
Karimov said the authorities had tried to create favorable conditions for negotiations with the rioters, who “were offered transport to leave along their chosen route,” but the government could not accept rioters’ condition to release jailed supporters in different parts of the country.
The situation in the former Soviet republic sparked wide concern after governments collapsed in three other former Soviet republics— Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan — in the past one and a half years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Karimov on the phone Saturday to express deep concern about the threat to stability in Central Asia.