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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kyrgyzstan arrests Andizhan uprising suspects

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyz security forces have arrested five men accused of playing a part in organizing unrest in the Uzbek town of Andizhan last year, officials said on Wednesday.

Uzbekistan has already pressured impoverished neighbor Kyrgyzstan to extradite refugees who it says are Islamist terrorists responsible for the Andizhan violence.

Human rights groups say Uzbekistan uses the threat of militant Islam as an excuse to clamp down on dissent.

On Wednesday, Kyrgyzstan's SNB security service said the five men had confessed to being members of a group that the Uzbek authorities blame for the unrest.

"Five Uzbek citizens have been detained in (Kyrgyzstan's southern town of) Osh. They confessed that they are members of Akromiya and that they were linked to the Andizhan events," said an SNB officer responsible for media contacts.

In May 2005, witnesses in Andizhan estimated troops killed hundreds when they fired on a large crowd of people who had gathered in the center of town near a government building seized by armed men.

The unrest was prompted by the jailbreak of 23 Muslim businessmen who were on trial in Andizhan for religious extremism and accused of creating Akromiya, which the authorities say is an extremist sect.

Uzbekistan denies its troops killed civilians in Andizhan. It says 187 people died there when security forces moved against foreign-financed "terrorists" whose aim was to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate.
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