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Uzbek President Attacks Media Coverage Of Violence

President Islam Karimov at 17 May press coneference Tashkent, 18 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov said last night at a press conference in Tashkent that Western media coverage of the 13-14 May violence in the eastern region around the city of Andijon was creating a bad image of his country.

Karimov said that Western media wanted to send the message that "peaceful demonstrators were shot," and that Uzbekistan is a land of "despotism and tyranny," RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. "What they are aiming to do is to present a picture and hammer it into the heads of the Western public before the investigation is completed," he said.

"What kind of peaceful demonstration is it when they arm themselves first by receiving weapons from outside Uzbekistan, then attack a police station, then attack a regular military base, a brigade, taking up to 305 automatic rifles, as the prosecutor just said, hundreds of pistols and grenades, four machine guns, then attack a prison and set some 600 prisoners free, and only after that hold a peaceful demonstration?" Karimov said.

At the same press conference, Prosecutor-General Rashid Qodirov said that 169 people were killed in violence in eastern Uzbekistan over the weekend, including more than 50 foreign fighters. He added that "only terrorists were liquidated by government forces," including two Kyrgyz nationals.

Qodirov also said that rebels took more than 50 hostages during the violence, killing three women and two children, and that 32 government troops were killed.

Uzbek opposition members have said nearly 750 people were killed in the unrest. None of the figures could be independently confirmed.

Click here for a gallery of images from the violence in eastern Uzbekistan on 13-14 May.

See also:

What Really Happened On Bloody Friday?

Where Does Crisis Go From Here?

Protesters Charge Officials With Using Extremism Charges To Target Entrepreneurs

Analysis: Economic Concerns Primary In Andijon

Background: Banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Faces Dwindling Appeal, Internal Divisions

Interview: Opposition Leader Tells RFE/RL About 'Farmers' Revolution'