Former Turkmen deputy Prime Minister detained on suspicion of conspiracy

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told foreign diplomats on the threshold of an official meeting between head of the interim Afghan administration Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Jamali Mir Zafarullah Khan that former Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shikhmuradov had been detained on suspicion of conspiracy against the Turkmen President by the Turkmen law enforcement bodies.

The Turkmen authorities call Shikhmuradov "one of the main persons involved in the coup d'etat" on November 25.

It is unclear under what circumstances Shikhmuradov was detained.

In the morning on November 25, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was fired at in his motorcade on his way to work. According to data of the Turkmen authorities, a "KamAZ" truck drove out of a side street not far from an Olympic stadium in Turkmenbashi Avenue and cut off the President's car with Saparmurat Niyazov at the wheel from the road patrol car of the Turkmen Defence Ministry and two escort cars.

Several armed men got out of the truck, a BMW, a "Gazel" van and nearby dwelling houses and opened automatic fire. As a result, according to data of the Turkmen law enforcement bodies, several men were wounded.

The Turkmen authorities saw the attempt on the President as "a coup d'etat, overthrow of the constitutional order and violent seizure of power in the country." According to the Turkmen authorities, Former Turkmen Deputy Minister of Agriculture Saparmurad Yklymov, former Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, former head of the Central Bank and Deputy Prime Minister Khudaiberdy Orazov and former Turkmen Ambassador to Turkey Nurmukhammed Khanamov were the masterminds of the conspiracy.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's spokesman Serdar Durdyev asserted that "according to their plan the terrorists intended to seize power in the country. The organizers of the coup d'etat had divided their future positions in the government in advance." The Turkmen law enforcement bodies say that it turned out during the interrogations that Saparmurad Yklymov had been the mastermind of the firing at the President's motorcade. The former Turkmen Deputy Minister of Agriculture has already been living abroad for eight years and at present is Sweden.

The Turkmen General Prosecutor's Office says that the detained bore testimony according to which Saparmurad Yklymov was the very man who had hired assassins and provided them with transport and weapons.

According to Turkmen General Prosecutor Kurbanbibi Atadzhanova, Boris Shikhmuradov who was abroad illegally penetrated into Turkmenistan to lead the coup d'etat and head the new government." One of the detained declared that after the failure on December 7 Boris Shikhmuradov found shelter in the residence of the Uzbek Ambassador, the Turkmen General Prosecutor said.

That caused some deterioration in Turkmen-Uzbek relations because the Uzbek Ambassador's residence was searched in his absence on December 16 by the Turkmen law enforcement bodies trying to find the participants in the attempt.

The Turkmen General Prosecutor asserted that Boris Shikhmuradov managed to escape with assistance of Uzbek Ambassador to Ashkhabad Abdurashid Kadyrov.

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov described all "accusations of Uzbek assistance to the organizers of the coup d'etat in Turkmenistan as unsubstantiated." However, on December 21 the Turkmen Foreign Ministry declared the Uzbek Ambassador persona non grata for "actions inappropriate to the status of a diplomat" and gave him 24 hours to leave the country.

"Kadyrov assisted Shikhmuradov providing him with shelter, a car with diplomatic numberplates that took him to the residence, housing and food. Moreover, Kadyrov tried to help Shikhmuradov leave Turkmenistan under diplomatic coverage," the Turkmen Foreign Ministry stressed.

The Turkmen Embassy in Moscow told RIA Novosti that Shikhmuradov was also charged with abuse of office in 1994 when he had been the Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister and controlled security departments. He was in a collusion with other persons and embezzled state property worth 25,270 thousand U.S. dollars.

The Turkmen security agencies arrested 46 people including 7 foreigners during the investigation of the attempt on the Turkmen President.

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