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Tense Situation In Kyrgyzstan After Violent Clashes

Kyrgyz protesters in Jalal-Abad earlier this month (file photo) Bishkek, 20 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Police fired shots in clashes with opposition supporters demanding the resignation of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, but the demonstrators regained control of key government buildings in southern cities.

Thousands of protesters took control of the police and administration headquarters in the town of Jalal-Abad and Osh. Police said that only blank rounds had been fired in the air, but denied opposition claims that they used excessive force.

Police had briefly recaptured the buildings this morning, after the protesters had held them for two days. Other regions, including the capital Bishkek, have also seen opposition protests, with some demonstrators electing "people's councils" after parliamentary polls left the opposition with a mere handful of seats.

Vote monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the poll, held in February and March -- pointing to vote buying, disqualification of opposition figures, and media manipulation. The U.S. and the European Union also proclaimed the elections flawed.

The OSCE today appealed for talks between the two sides to calm the standoff. The head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, Ambassador Markus Muller, today expressed concern about the latest developments.

Unconfirmed reports, quoting sources, say several people were killed in today's unrest. But the reports can not be independently confirmed.

For more on the situation, see Kyrgyz Police Battle With Protesters In Southern Cities

For more on the Kyrgyz elections, see RFE/RL's dedicated website Kyrgyzstan Votes 2005

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, agencies)

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