Uzbekistan: Tashkent shootout stokes fears of independence day clashes
|Publication Date||31 August 2009|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Uzbekistan: Tashkent shootout stokes fears of independence day clashes, 31 August 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ac62c33c.html [accessed 21 October 2014]|
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Reports of shootings in Tashkent on the evening of August 29 have sparked fears the Uzbek government is using the cover of independence celebrations to crack down on alleged militants.
Local bloggers and opposition media suggest that coordinated attacks in different parts of the city left an unknown number dead, including up to six police officers. The attacks, some speculate, were timed to disrupt independence celebrations scheduled for September 1. Tashkent residents say security has been intensified further after being tightened last week when Uzbekistan unilaterally closed its borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Tashkent has blamed both countries for harboring militants in the past.
Authorities have not released any official statement, though unidentified officials tell pro-government media outlets that the incident merely resulted in the deaths of two criminals.
An unidentified official told the pro-government news website Gorizont.uz that the disruptions were confined to one house in Tashkent's old quarter. "In order to avoid bloodshed, criminals were asked to give up their weapons. However, the bandits responded with gunfire and made an attempt to break the encirclement. In the ensuing crossfire, both criminals were destroyed. [...] The eliminated individuals have had links with a number of serious crimes that were committed recently in Tashkent city," the source said according to an August 30 report.
"Besides that, information about incidents that took place in other parts of the capital that appeared yesterday on the Internet cannot be confirmed," the official added.
Local human rights activists suggest the government may not be completely innocuous.
Noting the tension in the capital and conflicting reports, a statement released on August 29 by the Tashkent-based Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan said, "According to one version, the abuse of power by [police officers] has caused serious public discontent. According to another version, the gunfire might have been staged by law enforcement structures [to promote the appearance of a] fight against terrorism and religious extremism."
In late May, a shooting in the city of Khanabad and an alleged suicide bombing in Andijan appeared to rattle the regime. The Ferghana Valley has remained tense since, with additional reports of shootings on the Kyrgyz border.