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Kyrgyzstan buries uprising victims as nation mourns

Last Updated: Saturday, April 10, 2010 - 14:16

Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan held funerals on Saturday for 16 victims of bloody riots this week that saw the opposition seize control of the Central Asian nation and toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev flee south.

With the future of the strategic country still uncertain, the United States suspended all flights carrying troops to support operations in Afghanistan from its Manas base outside the capital Bishkek.

Some 7,000 people gathered in a sea of flowers at a cemetery on the edge of the capital for Saturday`s mass burials, as the country mourned 79 people who died in the uprising during which the government opened fired on protesters.

The victims` coffins, swathed in bright red Kyrgyz flags, were laid out as the crowd sung traditional songs and chanted prayers.

Key figures of the new government were dotted among the throng of mourners at the mountain Atta-Beiit cemetery some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Bishkek.

Interim chief Roza Otunbayeva promised the weeping families of the victims justice for their loss.

"The regime became the enemy of the people when it opened fire on its patriots, the best sons of the nation, and we -- we will do our best to install a just power in Kyrgyzstan," she told the crowd.

Her deputy prime minister Omurbek Tekebayev also renewed opposition pledges for a "true democracy" in the ex-Soviet state.

"We will build a true democracy or else the souls of those dead will never forgive us!," he told the crowd.

Despite ongoing tensions in Bakiyev`s stronghold in southern Kyrgyzstan, a measure of calm had returned on Saturday to the impoverished country of 5.3 million people -- its economy in shambles following the popular revolution.

The stability of the strategic ex-Soviet is key to the United States, which hosts an air base in Kyrgyzstan vital to its military operations in Afghanistan.

A total of 79 people were killed in the riots after three people died overnight, the Health Ministry said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010 - 14:16
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