100 die as Kyrgyz leader ousted
The Scotsman | By Olga Dzyubenko and Maria Golovnina - 08 April 2010
OPPOSITION leaders last night said they had seized power in Kyrgyzstan, taking control of security headquarters, a state TV channel and other government buildings after violent clashes with police.
Protesters said at least 100 people were killed yesterday. A health ministry official put the death toll in the capital Bishkek at 47, and said 420 people had been injured.
|• A Kyrgyz opposition supporter hands a national flag to a fellow demonstrator standing on a military truck. Picture: Getty|
Around 1,000 people stormed the prosecutor-general's office before setting fire to the building. Opposition activists also took control of state television channel KTR.
Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva said she had taken over the government after the protests forced the Central Asian country's president to flee Bishkek.
She said she wanted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who she helped bring to power five years ago, to resign.
"We have a caretaker government now in place, and I am the head of it," Ms Otunbayeva said.
"It will remain in place for half a year, during which we will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and fair (presidential) elections," she said.
Mr Bakiyev left Bishkek – where demonstrators torched the prosecutor-general's office and tried to smash trucks into government buildings – and flew to the southern city of Osh, an opposition member of parliament said.
Earlier, government troops opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters who tried to smash two lorries through the perimeter fence of government buildings in Bishkek. Clashes that have spread across the country since last month.
Protesters had arrived in the main square on an armoured personnel carrier seized from the military.
Smoke from burning buildings and makeshift bonfires billowed around the capital of the former Soviet state of some 5.3 million people.
There were a series of blasts in the city and protesters were dragging away the wounded covered in blood.
"There are dozens of dead bodies, all with gunshot wounds," Akylbek Yeukebayev, a doctor at a Bishkek hospital, said.
Many of the injured had gunshot wounds to their heads.
"They are killing us," said one wounded man on the emergency ward.
"About 100 people were killed today, possibly more. What kind of negotiations with the government can we talk about when they are killing our people?", Toktoaim Umetaliyeza, a prominent opposition and human rights campaigner, said.
About 5,000 people were in the centre of Bishkek, some carrying rifles and holding red-and-yellow Krygyz flags.
Political unrest over poverty, rising prices and corruption has gripped Kyrgyzstan since early March.
About a third of the population live below the poverty line and remittances from workers in Russia have fallen during the global economic crisis.
European security watchdog, the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), chaired by neighbouring Kazakhstan, called for calm and offered to broker any talks.
"The OSCE recognises that there are political, economic and social issues underlying the unrest, which need to be addressed through broad political dialogue. The organisation stands ready to facilitate such a dialogue," it said in a statement.
Protesters seized government buildings in three other towns. In Talas, Kyrgyz first deputy prime minister Aklybek Japarov and interior minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev were beaten.
Mr Kongantiyev was forced to shout, "Down with Bakiyev!" two witnesses said.
The White House urged all parties to refrain from violence. The United States has a military air base supporting troops in Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz city of Manas and is a major donor to Kyrgyzstan, along with China and Russia, which also has military base in the ex-Soviet state of 5.3 million people.
Kyrgyzstan receives aid from both Russia and the United States, as well as from neighbouring China.
Mr Bakiyev came to power in the 2005 "Tulip Revolution" protests, led jointly by Ms Otunbayeva, which ousted Kyrgyzstan's first post-Soviet president, Askar Akayev. She was a former foreign minister under Mr Bakiyev.
Spokesmen for the government and the president were not available for comment.
Strategic focus for fighting the Islamist threat
WHY IS THE UNREST SIGNIFICANT?
Kyrgyzstan is central to Western efforts to contain the spread of Islamist militancy from neighbouring Afghanistan.
The United States rents an air base in Kyrgyzstan used to support its fight against the Taleban. Russia also has an air base in the country.
A change of leadership in Bishkek could complicate the base agreements. Last year, Kyrgyzstan demanded the US close its Manas base, but climbed down after increasing the rent.
Kyrgyzstan shares the volatile Fergana Valley with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and was the target of cross-border raids by Islamic guerrillas in 1999 and 2000.
WHAT SPARKED THE UNREST?
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition leader who came to power after Askar Akayev's fall in 2005, has been accused of jailing opponents and failing to root out corruption. He won a second term by a landslide in July, but the election was heavily criticised. He has also failed to improve the lives of his 5.3 million countrymen. A third live in poverty and the average monthly wage is less than £100.
Kyrgyzstan's $4.7 billion economy has been badly hit by sharp drop in remittances from expats, which made up almost 30 per cent of GDP in 2008.
Kyrgyzstan Revolt: Interim govt takes control after bloody
RussiaToday — April 08, 2010 — Rioting in Kyrgysztan, which has ousted the country's President, has now left 74 dead and some 500 injured. Violence spread to several regions, including the capital, Bishkek. Opposition leaders say they've seized power and now control the police and the army.