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Kyrgyz Police Seize Weapons From U.S. Officials

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's police have accused a group of U.S. officials of illegal possession of guns and seized dozens of firearms from their apartment, but the U.S. Embassy in the Central Asian state has denied the charge.

Washington operates a military base in Kyrgyzstan to support operations in nearby Afghanistan and sees the ex-Soviet nation as a key ally in Central Asia. But relations have soured after a string of incidents at the base in recent years.

Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry said police seized six machine guns, 25 assault rifles, and a number of smaller firearms late on August 4 from a house rented by U.S. officials.

"Illegally possessed firearms and ammunition have been found and seized," it said in a statement. It added that several embassy officials and servicemen were in the house at the time.

But the government said in a statement on August 5 that the U.S. officials had come to train officers in the national security forces. It blamed the incident on organizational shortcomings and promised to solve the problem.

"Joint training will continue after the shortcomings are dealt with," it said in a statement.

Diplomatic Friction

The U.S. base, established in 2001, has been the source of diplomatic friction between Washington and Kyrgyzstan since 2006 when a U.S. airman shot dead a Kyrgyz man there. The United States said at the time he was responding to a security threat.

Also that year, another U.S. officer went missing in Bishkek and appeared three days later saying she had been abducted.

Months later, a U.S. tanker jet collided with a Kyrgyz passenger plane on the runway, causing the passenger plane to make an emergency landing immediately after takeoff.

Opposition activists have held a number of rallies calling on the government to evict U.S. troops but officials have resisted the calls. Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian airbase.

The latest incident comes on the heels of last week's argument between the U.S. Embassy and the Bishkek city council over the location of a fence surrounding a luxury Western hotel.