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Kyrgyzstan: Official Seeks Russian Aid To Subdue Militants

Moscow/Bishkek, 31 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Kyrgyzstan's first deputy prime minister, Boris Silayev, was in Moscow today to ask for Russian support in battling armed Islamic militants who have siezed control of five villages in southern Kyrgyzstan. The militants--who entered Kyrgyzstan last week from neighboring Tajikistan--are believed to be mainly Uzbeks opposed to the secular regimes in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states. They are holding a number of hostages, including four Japanese geologists, but have not stated any demands. Some 5,000 residents have fled the area. Interfax quotes Silayev as saying after a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Moscow is prepared to send military aid but not troops. ITAR-TASS reports that Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev will fly to Uzbekistan tomorrow to discuss the Kyrgyz crisis. Uzbekistan has been helping Kyrgyzstan fight the militants, but a botched air raid by Uzbek planes on a village on the weekend killed and injured several civilians.

According to Russian news agencies, fighting continued in the mountainous region last night. The regional administration head of the Chong-Alai district today confirmed the clashes to an RFE/RL correspondent.

However, General Bolot Januzakov--security chief from the Kyrgyz presidential administration--said at a press conference in Bishkek that the region remained quiet yesterday and today.