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Monday, August 07, 2006

Kyrgyz say kill three suspected Islamists in south

BISHKEK, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Kyrgyz security forces have killed three men, including an imam, in the south of the Central Asian state who were suspected members of a banned Islamist militant group, the SNB security service said on Monday.

There has been an upsurge in shoot-outs between armed gangs and security forces in the south of Kyrgyzstan since May when 13 died after a gang raided a Tajik border post. Officials say they have stepped up operations against suspected militants.

The area lies along a heroin trafficking route but officials have blamed the violence on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group classed as terrorist by Russia and the United States.

"Last night at 22.30 in the town of Osh a group of fighters from the IMU was destroyed," a spokesman for the SNB said, adding that the SNB had unspecified intelligence indicating that the men belonged to the IMU.

He said security forces had been following a car containing the three men -- two Tajiks and a Kyrgyz citizen -- and killed them when the suspects opened fire with an assault rifle.

The Kyrgyz citizen, driving the car, was named by the SNB spokesman as Mukhamadrik Kamalov, the imam of the Al-Sarakhsy mosque in Kara-Suu near Osh.

Agents found weapons, including grenades, and religious literature in the car, he said.

While both the Kyrgyz and Tajik authorities have pinned the violence on the IMU, a group weakened by the overthrow of the Taliban government in nearby Afghanistan, there has been no independent confirmation.
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