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Scores Die In Uzbek Violence

Tashkent, 31 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- In the past three days, more than 40 people have been reported killed after violence in Uzbekistan between security forces and suspected Islamic militants.

Uzbek officials said 23 people -- 20 suspects and three police officers -- were killed on 30 March.

The violence included fighting on the outskirts of Tashkent, near a road leading to the official residence of President Islam Karimov, and reported attacks by suicide bombers.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has telephoned Uzbek Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev to offer U.S. help in the investigation of the violence.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not provide details about what extremist group the U.S. administration suspects might be involved in the fighting.

At least 42 people have been reported killed since 28 March in the violence, which marks the most serious unrest in Uzbekistan since the government allowed U.S. forces to set up a base for operations in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 attacks in America.