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Kyrgyzstan Kills Suspected Islamist Militants

Kyrgyz soldier rests near the area where militants were killed

Kyrgyz soldier rests near the area where militants were killed

BISHKEK (Reuters) -- Security forces in Kyrgyzstan have killed three men they believe were militants from an Islamist group, a state security official said.

Earlier this week the Central Asian state said five militants had been killed in a gun battle in the southern town of Jalal-Abad in which one state security officer had been killed.

It said the militants belonged to the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, home to a U.S military air base since 2001, has been battling off and on since 1999.

A state security official who asked not to be named said its forces killed three more militants in a village in the Osh region, also in the south near the border with Uzbekistan, on the night of June 27.

"According to preliminary data three militants have been killed. Most likely they were terrorists from the group destroyed in Jalal-Abad," the official told Reuters.

Another senior government official confirmed the killed militants were believed to be members of the IMU.

"They (the militants) were from the same structure ... They (the security service) used two armoured personnel carriers to avoid casualties on our side," said the official, who also requested anonymity.

The IMU, founded in 1998 and believed to be allied with Afghanistan's Taliban, conducted several raids in Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000, holding entrenched positions for months.

In 2006, Kyrgyz security forces reported killing several IMU members in a special operation. No attacks involving the IMU members have been reported in the last two years in Kyrgyzstan.

But in May, Uzbekistan's security forces blamed the IMU for attacks in Khanabad, a small town close to the Kyrgyzstan border, in which one policeman died and another was injured.

Western security analysts say the IMU was largely wiped out during U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan but some have pointed to a possible rise in its activity in recent months alongside a parallel resurgence in Taliban operations.