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Suicide Bomber Attacks Chinese Embassy In Bishkek

  • RFE/RL

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan say a suicide car bomber struck the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek on August 30, killing himself and wounding three Kyrgyz employees of the mission.

President Almazbek Atambaev ordered the government to step up counterterrorism measures after what officials called a terrorist attack -- a rarity in a Central Asian country that is known for political upheaval but has experienced few militant attacks despite growing government concerns about Islamic extremism.

Deputy Prime Minister Zhenish Razakov said the suspected bomber rammed a car through a gate to get inside the Chinese Embassy compound and detonated an explosive device.

Residents in the neighborhood on the outskirts of Bishkek said the powerful midmorning blast shook their homes and shattered windows. Images of the scene showed a badly damaged building and debris strewn over a wide area.

The aftermath of the bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek on August 30.

The aftermath of the bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek on August 30.

China condemned what it described as an "extreme and violent attack" on its embassy and urged Kyrgyz authorities to "get to the bottom of the incident," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said at a press briefing in Beijing.

In a phone call, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that authorities would take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats, Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy warned U.S. citizens in Kyrgyzstan to "shelter in place" until more information emerged.

Kyrgyzstan's GKNB state security service said it was investigating the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry said the three people wounded by the explosion were Kyrgyz nationals working at the embassy, and that they had been hospitalized with shrapnel-like injuries -- suggesting the explosive device may have been prepared as a fragmentation bomb.

Doctors said the three victims suffered concussions and multiple bruises.

Kyrgyzstan's GKNB state security service said it was investigating the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Security service sources told RFE/RL said several hours after the attack that investigators were still trying to identify the suspect who was found inside the car after the explosion, as well as the owner of the vehicle.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Chinese Embassy compound is situated in Bishkek's southern suburbs, also home to the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic residencies and private homes.

Police blocked traffic on a main Bishkek highway and were checking vehicles.

The attack, and Atambaev’s order for strengthened security measures, came ahead of a series of high-profile public events in the coming days.

Kyrgyzstan marks the 25th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on August 31. It is hosting the World Nomad Games on September 3-8 and a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on September 16.

Diplomats from neighboring China, which has increased its influence in Central Asia since the Soviet collapse, have occasionally been targeted in the past in Kyrgyzstan.

Two visiting Chinese officials were shot dead and another was wounded in Bishkek in May 2000, and a Chinese consul and his driver were fatally shot in the capital in 2002.

Authorities blamed those attacks on Uyghur separatists seeking independence for their native region in western China, which borders Central Asia. But many experts say claims of militant activity by Uyghurs in Central Asia are overblown.

The secular authorities in Kyrgyzstan, a poor nation with a predominantly Muslim population of 5.7 million, frequently announce that they have foiled attacks allegedly plotted by extremist groups including Islamic State (IS).

According to Kyrgyz officials, some 500 Kyrgyz nationals have joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Reuters, AFP, AP, 24.kg, Xinhua, TASS, and Interfax

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