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New Blast Rips Tashkent District

Tashkent, 31 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A new explosion has been reported in the Sabir Rakhimov district in the southeast of Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent today, the fourth day of violence in which more than 40 people have died.

RFE/RL correspondent Koldashev Rakhmatshon visited the district and confirmed the latest blast. Information on dead and injured, if any, was not immediately available.

Speaking by phone from Tashkent at 6:30 p.m. Prague time, RFE/RL correspondent Feruza Djoraeva told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service: "People around us say that a college was hit [by an explosion], but I cannot confirm that because the area is sealed off. Traffic is completely stopped. Pedestrians who can prove they live in this area are being allowed, after being searched, to go to their homes. There were at least 10 ambulances that rushed to the place, so we can suspect there are casualties, but there is no information available now."

Another Uzbek Service correspondent, Husniddin Kutbitdinov, reported the following from Tashkent: "About 20:30 (17:30 Prague time) there was an explosion in one of the houses in the Sabir Rakhimov district of Tashkent. One of the policemen here has confirmed this information. The whole area is cordoned off by the police and it's not possible to get close. I saw a group of people from this area being taken to the Sabir Rakhimov district police station in a minibus. I think they were witnesses and they were being taken to the police for questioning."

Authorities are blaming radical Islamist groups for a series of explosions beginning on 28 March. None has come forward to claim responsibility.

At least 23 people died yesterday when security forces besieged an apartment block. Uzbek law-enforcement agencies said today they have detained some 30 people in connection with the attacks.