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Loyalists of ousted Kyrgyz leader resist new rulers

Last Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 13:50

Jalalabad: Supporters of Kyrgyzstan`s toppled president put up fresh resistance against the country`s new rulers on Monday, gathering hundreds in the south to rally against the self-proclaimed government.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev was toppled in a violent revolt on April 07 and went into exile after days of turmoil that disrupted flights from a US air base supporting operations in Afghanistan.

The interim government, which came to power after Bakiyev`s overthrow, says its forces now control the entire nation, but a surge of unrest in the south -- Bakiyev`s tribal stronghold -- has threatened its authority.

Bakiyev loyalists took over a regional government office in the southern city of Jalalabad over the weekend and gathered about 1,500 supporters in the city square on Monday morning.

"Bakiyev is our legitimate president!" shouted the crowd, some holding banners reading "The opposition spilled blood to grab power." Others gave out leaflets calling for Bakiyev`s comeback.

A report said there were no police and Bakiyev supporters walked in and out of the government building freely, but the overall mood was peaceful.

The new government, yet to be formally recognised globally, says it allowed Bakiyev to escape in order to avoid civil war and would not use force to intervene in the south.

Led by ex-foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, it says it will focus on reforming the Constitution over the next six months and preparing for what it says will be a fair Presidential Election.

Unrest in Kyrgyzstan is a worry for the United States and Russia, both of which operate military air bases in the impoverished former Soviet republic.

Turbulence in the south, Central Asia`s most flammable region straddling the densely populated Ferghana valley, is particularly alarming in a country with a south-north divide where hundreds died ethnic clashes in the 1990s.

At least 84 people died when protests against Bakiyev`s five-year rule erupted into a night of violence on April 07. Bakiyev fled the capital and tried to muster support against the opposition in the south but eventually fled to Kazakhstan.

His exact whereabouts are now unclear.

The interim government has cracked down on his allies, issuing arrest warrants for officials it says were involved in murders and corrupt deals under Bakiyev.

It also says Bakiyev transferred USD 200 million of state money out of the country on April 07, a big sum for the country`s USD 4.7 billion economy. Bakiyev`s brother Zhanybek, accused of ordering troops to fire on protesters, is still at large.

The events have thrown the fate of the US air base into question. Hawks in the new administration have called for the US base to be shut, accusing the United States of ignoring corruption and abuses under Bakiyev in order to keep the base.

For now, Otunbayeva says the government would abide by its US base agreements and allow the lease to be extended automatically for another year this summer.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 13:50
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