Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, who dominated the Central Asia’s most populous nation for more than 25 years, has died at the age of 78 after suffering a stroke last week.
Lola Tillyaeva, one of the daughters of Karimov, announced the news on her Instagram account on Friday, posting a blank picture saying “he has left us … I am choosing my words, and cannot believe this”.
The country’s government and parliament also confirmed the death on Friday and said the funeral would take place in Karimov’s hometown Samarkand on Saturday.
Uzbekistan’s state television announced the death with the presenter saying: “Dear compatriots, it is with huge grief in our hearts that we announce to you the death of our dear president.”
The former Soviet, whose brutal crackdown on dissent was widely criticised by rights groups, has been at the helm of the strategic country bordering Afghanistan from since before it gained independence from Moscow in 1991.
Karimov lacks a clear successor after being re-elected to a fifth term in 2015 with more than 90 percent of the vote. The country has never held an election judged free and fair by international monitors.
Those tipped to rule after Karimov’s death include Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, Kamoliddin Rabbimov, an independent Uzbek political analyst based in France, told the AFP news agency.
“I think in the corridors of power they have already started fighting,” Rabbimov said, while predicting the elite will be eager to ensure the transition is “more or less stable”.
“On the one hand the political elite is fighting each other and regrouping but on the other, they understand they need to keep control of the country. They have gained massive wealth under Karimov.”
Karimov’s elder daughter Gulnara, a flamboyant figure formerly seen as a potential successor, was reportedly placed under house arrest in 2014 after she openly criticised officials and family members on Twitter.
Karimova accused her mother and younger sister of sorcery, compared her father with Stalin and attacked the country’s powerful security chief for corruption and harbouring presidential ambitions.
The Uzbek government has long been repeatedly criticised for human rights abuses, most notoriously in 2005 in the city of Andijan, where government forces are accused of killing hundreds of demonstrators.
The United Nations describes the use of torture in Uzbekistan as systematic, and Reporters Without Borders said Karimov frequently broke his own records for repression and paranoia.
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, accused Karimov’s security forces of executing two dissidents by boiling them to death.
Karimov grew up in an orphanage in the ancient city of Samarkand and went on to study mechanical engineering and economics. He rose up through the Communist Party ranks to head Soviet Uzbekistan in 1989.