Uzbekistan: New victims of violence

Soldiers lined the streets and Uzbeks dug graves yesterday in this eastern town as families mourned the hundreds reportedly killed in clashes with security forces last week in the worst unrest since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991.

Violence in other nearby towns killed hundreds more, new reports said, further threatening the stability of President &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Islam Karimov's government, a key US ally, as foreign leaders urged restraint.

After a night of gunfire, &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Andijan was quiet yesterday. Troops and armoured personnel carriers formed a tight circle around the city centre. Men were digging graves, including one that appeared to be a large common grave, at cemeteries guarded by security service agents, tells Jamaica Observer.

Reports are that Friday's was, in essence, a spontaneous protest against the harsh human rights situations existing in the country. Witnesses say soldiers fired indiscriminately into a crowd of 5000-strong demonstrators. The killings were said to be the worst in Asia since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy students. Is there any clear evidence that the 23 businessmen on trial on charges of Islamic extremism had anything to do with such activities? The public perception is that this is one way the security forces are treating those opposed to the regime. Hence the outcry for their release, and the demonstrations leading to the firing, publishes the Khaleej Times.

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