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Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek Reacts To Uzbek 'Terror' Accusations

  • Gulnoza Saidazimova --> Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kulov (file photo) Bishkek officials are reacting to Uzbek authorities' accusations that the Andijon uprising was planned by Islamic militants at a terrorist base in southern Kyrgyzstan. Heads of the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry and the Security Council ruled out the allegations, saying no terrorists were trained in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov said the porous borders with Uzbekistan must be strengthened to prevent terrorist activities in future.

Prague, 8 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Acting Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov said on 6 September that claims by Uzbekistan's Prosecutor-General's Office that the Andijon unrest was planned by Islamic militants at a terrorist base in southern Kyrgyzstan are groundless.

"Nobody was trained by any extremist groups or instructors on the territory of Kyrgyzstan [for alleged terrorist activities] and there is no such opportunity in the country. Therefore the accusations [by Uzbek prosecutors] are baseless," Isakov said. "We think that they are trying to blame somebody else for their own bad work."

Isakov's statement was the first reaction of the Kyrgyz government to accusations Uzbek authorities made late last month.

On 26 August, Svetlana Ortiqova, a spokeswoman of the Uzbek prosecutor-general, told RFE/RL that a group of "criminals had training in making and using explosive devices, conducting military operations, and learned martial arts with foreign instructors in a desolate military base located in the Teke village near the Kyrgyz city of Osh in January-April 2005." Their goal, Ortiqova said, was to overthrow the constitutional order in Uzbekistan.

Earlier this week, investigators of the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office reported the same "findings" to an Uzbek parliamentary commission.

They also said that another 60 trained and armed militants composed of Kyrgyz citizens broke into Uzbekistan "by taking two border guards hostage and directly took an active part in the acts of terror on the night from 13 to 14 May."

Isakov said the military training base in Teke, which belongs to the Defense Ministry, is still functioning and no strangers are allowed there.

Kyrgyzstan's Security Council on 6 September also denied the Uzbek authorities' allegations.

Vyacheslav Khan, deputy head of the Security Council, said the Uzbek side's accusations were baseless and "Kyrgyzstan's special services and law-enforcement agencies have no proof" that any terrorist base exists in southern Kyrgyzstan. Khan added that the Security Council was ready to consider documents Uzbekistan's government could provide to prove accusations.
"To some degree, this claim is justified because there have been cases when citizens of our country, as well as noncitizens, have acquired Kyrgyz passports by paying bribes. There have been such cases in the past." -- Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov

But Kyrgyz Prime Minister Feliks Kulov's reaction was different. He said the accusations were not groundless "to some degree" due to the weakness of border protection and the ease of acquiring fake documents.

"Regarding the accusations that some militants who took part in the Andijon events were Kyrgyz citizens, my answer is that, to some degree, this claim is justified because there have been cases when citizens of our country, as well as noncitizens, have acquired Kyrgyz passports by paying bribes. There have been such cases in the past," Kulov said.

Kulov, who was speaking to the BBC's Kyrgyz Service, did not clarify whether such cases occurred in the recent past, as Ortiqova claimed, or a few years ago when the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan raided southern regions of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 1999 and 2000.

Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Erkin Mamkulov said yesterday that "Kyrgyzstan has never been a base for terrorists" and that Uzbek authorities should look for the reasons for the Andijon unrest in Uzbekistan itself. He also said Kulov's statements to the BBC were misinterpreted.

Ruslan Baibolsunov, an Osh-based military analyst, said some bases may exist in the country's mountainous regions that are hard to control. But he said that Teke couldn't have been a home for the Andijon "terrorists."

"If they would have said it [terrorist base] was based high in mountains, let's say in Alay or Nookat, it would sound a little more truthful," Baibolsunov said. "But this statement by the Uzbek prosecutor's office can only be understood as an attempt to damage Kyrgyzstan's image and undermine its authority."

The Teke villagers and some Andijon protesters mentioned in Ortiqova's statement as "terrorists trained in Teke" denied the accusations as well.

Vyacheslav Khan of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the Uzbek authorities complained about possible terrorist activities in the past and the two countries' investigators from the prosecutor's office visited the suspicious sites.

"They went there. After examining everything they found out that there was an abandoned shooting range," Khan said. "They also found out that it was based on Uzbek territory. [Uzbekistan] admitted it. Therefore we are very surprised to hear that your [Uzbek] Prosecutor-General's Office stated in your Majlis [parliament] that terrorists were trained in southern Kyrgyzstan."

He also rejected Ortiqova's statement that 60 Kyrgyz citizens received military training and broke into Uzbekistan before the Andijon uprising on 13 May.

Kulov, for his part, said Kyrgyzstan's new government has begun paying "special attention" to strengthening porous borders in order to prevent any further attempts to destabilize the situation in "neighboring countries."

(RFE/RL's Uzbek and Kyrgyz services contributed to this report).