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Rafiq Qori Kamoluddin (RFE/RL)
BISHKEK, September 20, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's President Kurmanbek Bakiev today justified the recent killings and arrests of alleged Islamic militants in the country's south, saying that religious extremism poses a serious threat to national security.
Addressing a gathering of security officials in Bishkek, Bakiev said their efforts had been "perfectly right" and urged them to be tough with those whom he accused of seeking to destabilize the country.
"All those who have come to Kyrgyzstan with weapons and who will attempt something with their weapons will be met with exactly those same methods," he said. "These people must be eliminated. Those who run our [law enforcement agencies] have no other way to deal with them."
Among those killed in recent weeks was Rafiq Qori Kamoluddin, a prominent Uzbek imam known for letting members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir radical religious grouping pray at his mosque.
The SNB initially described Kamoluddin as a "wanted terrorist," before suggesting he may have been shot dead by accident.
Kyrgyz rights groups have criticized Bakiev's his heavy-handed security approach and accused him of imitating Islam Karimov, his Uzbek counterpart.
But Bakiev today said religious extremism was gaining ground in Kyrgyzstan and was no longer confined to the country's impoverished south.