Bishkek, 25 October 1999 (RFE/RL) - The head of Kyrgyzstan's
National Security Council today denied an earlier report that four Japanese hostages and their Kyrgyz interpreter had been freed by gunmen who seized them more than two months ago. Bolot Dzhanuzakov told a news conference in Bishkek that the gunmen were still holding the five hostages. The Japanese geologists and their interpreter were taken hostage in late August when hundreds of fighters -- most of them believed to be Uzbek Islamists -- seized an area in southern Kyrgyztsan.
Several rounds of negotiations for the release of the Japanese failed to bring results. The gunmen reportedly asked for a $2 million ransom to free them and Japan has said it would not pay.