Uzbek troops retake border town

Government troops have reclaimed control of an eastern Uzbek town where rebels announced they would build an Islamic state, and residents say the authorities have arrested the group's leaders.

    An Uzbek villager shows his passport at the Kyrgyz border

    On Thursday, some residents said that about 200 government soldiers occupied Korasuv, a town of 20,000 on the border with Kyrgyzstan, overnight and arrested rebel leader Bakhtiyor Rakhimov and several aides who had announced a plan to rule according to Islamic law.

    Other residents said the government troops numbered 1000.

    Russian news agency Interfax said on Thursday that government forces were in control of the town.

    "Armed units from the ministries of defence and interior, and border guard service ... have been drafted into the town and now fully control the situation there," the agency said in a report from the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, Reuters reported.

    Fear for safety

    Some residents said they heard no shots, but others reported sporadic gun fire. All declined to give their names, fearing for their safety during the government crackdown on the uprising.

    Interfax had no reports of violence.

    The city of Andijan witnessed
    large-scale violence last Friday

    Government troops fired on protesters in the nearby Uzbek city of Andijan last Friday, killing hundreds, according to witnesses, and causing an international outcry.

    The authorities, who fled Korasuv when rioters attacked police and government offices on Saturday, returned in force on Thursday.

    Several border guards and about 20 soldiers in full combat gear toting Kalashnikovs stood guard near the bridge linking the town with Kyrgyzstan.

    Terrified Korasuv residents, who gathered nearby, said Rakhimov and at least three of his aides were arrested. Residents said some of those arrested were beaten by police and that arrests were continuing.

    Belligerent rebels

    The rebels in Korasuv did not appear to be armed on Wednesday. "We don't have weapons, but if they come and attack us we will fight even with knives," Rakhimov said.

    "We will be building an Islamic state here in accordance with the Quran," he said, presenting a new challenge to the government that is struggling to stabilise the Central Asian nation after the crackdown in Andijan.

    Uzbek President Islam Karimov has blamed the violence in Andijan on Muslim activists and denied firing on civilians, but an AP reporter and other witnesses saw troops firing on civilians.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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