Kyrgyzstan troops open fire on protesters

Kyrgyzstan troops open fire on protesters

Unidentified men take position near the main government building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Wednesday. AP

A group of at least 10 government soldiers were shooting with automatic weapons from the government headquarters towards a crowd of demonstrators, a Reuters cameraman said. But a group of protesters, waving red-and-yellow Kyrgyz flags, arrived in the main square on an armoured personnel carrier seized from the military.
Huge plumes of black smoke were billowing around the centre of Bishkek, the capital of the impoverished Central Asian state of 5.3 million people. There was intense gunfire in the centre of the city and a series of blasts. Protesters were dragging wounded people covered in blood away from the square.

“There are dozens of dead bodies, all with gunshot wounds,” Akylbek Yeukebayev, a doctor at a Bishkek hospital told Reuters. Many of the injured in the emergency ward had gunshot wounds to their heads and stomachs. Some were moaning and asking for help. “They are killing us,” said one wounded man on the ward.

Ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan hosts a US military air base that helps support troops in Afghanistan, as well as a Russian base. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov, who earlier dismissed the protesters in Talas as “bandits”, said he and the president were both working in their offices. “We daren’t even look out of the window,” Kamil Sydykov, the prime minister’s spokesman, said by telephone from inside the presidential building.

Kyrgyz opposition leader Temir Sariyev said he wanted to hold talks Bakiyev. “We’re going to the government’s headquarters,” he told Reuters by telephone. He said he would be accompanied by three more opposition politicians. Asked whom he would meet, he said: “The president, probably.”

Sariyev was among more than 10 opposition politicians released from captivity after a crowd gathered outside the building in which they had been held. Sariyev was arrested on his arrival on a flight from Moscow earlier on Wednesday.
Around 1,000 people stormed the prosecutor-general’s office in the capital before setting fire to the building. Opposition activists also took control of state television channel KTR. “The political violence is likely to continue in Kyrgyzstan,” said Lilit Gevorgyan, political analyst at IHS Global Insight.

 “Given (Bakiyev’s) resolve in recent years to concentrate power in his hands only, it is difficult to see how a political compromise may be found.”
Kyrgyzstan receives aid from both Russia and the United States as well as from neighbouring China.

Bishkek also relies on remittances from migrant workers in Russia; payments that have dwindled in the last year as Russia’s economy has suffered.
Protesters seized government buildings in three other towns. In one town, Talas, Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Aklybek Japarov and Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev were badly beaten. Kongantiyev was forced to shout: “Down with Bakiyev!”, two witnesses said.

The Kyrgyzstan government declared a state of emergency and said that a curfew would be enforced between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am in Bishkek and three other regions of Kyrgyzstan.

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