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Five dead, over 200 injured as looting continues in Bishkek

Friday, March 25, 2005

File photo of Bishkek, site of the looting Source: Hunne

RTR television reported 5 people died and about 200 were injured as looting continued Thursday night in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. The newly appointed head of security ministries, Felix Kulov, said at least 31 police officers were wounded.

Windows were smashed, shops were looted, and shopping centers were set ablaze during the unrest. Gunshots were also heard.

"Former President [Askar] Akayev is personally responsible for this. He had a chance to resign, instead of which he ran away," Kulov said. "The looters kept shouting 'this shop belonged to the [Akayev] family, this is why it is ours'."

The Kyrgyz ambassador to the United States, Baktybek Adrisaev, characterized the opposition's actions as "an anti-constitutional coup." The ambassador claimed that Akayev was in "a safe place" and that he had not resigned.

Most reports, although unconfirmed, said Akayev was in Kazakhstan. However, Interfax, by a source they described as "credible", reported he was in the resort area of Borovoye, in the Akmola region of northern Kazakhstan.

"I cannot confirm these rumors. He is simply not here," Ruslan Aubakirov, head of district administration, told RIA Novosti in response to the reports.

Opposition MP Ishinbai Kadyrbekov had initially been named acting president yesterday, but today opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev was named both acting president and prime minister. "Parliament today appointed me prime minister and gave me the functions of president," he said to applause at a rally.

He urged opposition supporters to not allow looting and stressed that popular opposition figure, Felix Kulov, would coordinate law enforcement. Heads of law enforcement agencies reportedly told Kulov that 90% of their staff were demoralized during consultations last night. Despite these developments, Bakiyev declined to declare a state of emergency.

The flag of Kyrgyzstan Source: SKopp

Bakiyev, outlining his plans for government on Friday, told a session of parliament, "Let me create an executive body of power that will not exist forever, but for about three months."

Kulov, newly freed from prison by protesters, stated he would return to prison when he was no longer needed. "I was sentenced to imprisonment and must serve my time," he said. "I am not interested in posts or positions. I was just asked to help protect people and their property."

Russia and the United States, who both have military bases in the country, vowed to stay out of events. Security at Russia's base was increased, although both countries said they did not expect trouble at their bases.

"Kyrgyzstan is not planning to review its previous international engagements," Kurmanbek Bakiyev told reporters. "This applies to the air bases of the [U.S.-led] anti-terrorism coalition and the Russian air base at Kant."

The United States called for fresh elections [1], and Russia has pledged to work with the opposition. Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Akayev would be welcome in Russia.[2]


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