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Details Of Shooting In Turkmen Capital Remain Unclear

  • Valentinas Mite

The authorities in Turkmenistan say an outbreak of shooting on September 13 in Ashgabat was related to the police neutralizing a gang of drug traffickers in a security operation.

The official statement did not say whether there were any casualties, or whether the alleged traffickers had been detained.

Almost everything about the outbreak of shooting remains clouded in official secrecy. All that is known for sure is that it happened.

Halmurad Glychdurdy, an RFE/RL correspondent living in the Turkmen capital, says the government's statement that this was a security operation against drug traffickers has not even been circulated in Turkmenistan itself.

He says the situation in the capital is calm now, but people feel uncertain about what is going on.

Glychdurdy says that "after 5 or 6 p.m., there is complete silence in the whole city. Very little transport is visible. People are not leaving their homes. Previously, people were used to staying out until 12 at night, but now everybody -- from kids to adults, everybody -- is at home at 5 or 7 p.m."

He says the fact that the authorities have provided no information makes people only more nervous and uncertain. Many are worried about their relatives who live in the part of the capital where the fighting took place.

Furthermore, Glychdurdy says he does not believe that the fighting was between drug dealers and the police. "Of course they would explain everything by terrorism and drug dealing," he adds.

Meanwhile, gundogar.org, a website started by jailed Turkmen opposition leader Boris Shikhmuradov, has been cited by the AFP news agency as reporting that the police battled "a religious group, possibly radical Islamists."

The claim cannot be independently confirmed.

In Moscow, Arkady Dubnov, a reporter for the "Vremya novostei" daily told AFP his Ashgabat sources had informed him of "tanks and armored vehicles opening fire on a drinking-water plant" in northern Ashgabat, where an armed group was hiding.

According to Dubnov's sources, between 10 and 20 bodies of dead policemen were brought to the morgue in Ashgabat.

RFE/RL's Turkmen Service contributed to this story
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