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Kyrgyz Parliamentarian Assassinated In Bishkek

Surabaldiev (left) and his driver (right) following the attack Prague, 10 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A leading Kyrgyz parliamentarian, Jyrgalbek Surabaldiev, has been shot dead in Bishkek. The assassination today comes a month before the country is to hold presidential elections in the wake of the ouster of former President Askar Akaev in late March.

Unknown people opened fire on Surabaldiev's vehicle in the center of Bishkek at around 1:30 p.m. local time.

A team from Reuters reached the shooting site in time to record an ambulance arriving and a medical team rushing to help the victims. Surabaldiev was dead but his unidentified driver was alive despite injuries.

Surabaldiev was the head of a grouping of businessmen called the "Union of Entrepreneurs -- New Step" and was elected to the Kyrgyz parliament in February. He owned the country's second biggest secondhand car market, a significant business operation.

The reasons behind the assassination of Surabaldiev are not known.

Kubatbek Baibolov, a member of the Kyrgyz parliament, told RFE/RL today that a number of motives are possible.

"There might be different versions [of the killing of Surabaldiev], starting from a dispute over property distribution and ending with politics," Baibolov said. "It is very hard to come to one conclusion so far. It has a negative impact on the image of the [Kyrgyz] parliament. It is getting dangerous. There were two attacks against deputies within the [last] month. This issue, of course, will be discussed [by parliament]."

The Kyrgyz parliament is holding an emergency session to discuss Surabaldiev's killing.

Surabaldiev is widely suspected of having criminal ties. The issue of his connection to criminal groups was raised recently in parliament.
"It has a negative impact on the image of the [Kyrgyz] parliament. It is getting dangerous." -- parliament member Kubatbek Baibolov

He was also allegedly one of the organizers of pro-government rallies in March, meant to counter protests calling for the resignation of President Akaev.

Those rallies were unsuccessful as popular protests later swept Akaev from power. An interim government currently runs the country ahead of new presidential elections scheduled for 10 July.

Today's assassination is the second shooting of parliamentarian in recent months in Kyrgyzstan.

Parliamentarian and presidential candidate Bayaman Erkinbaev was shot at and slightly wounded on 28 April. At that time he told RFE/RL the assassination attempt was linked to his political activity.

"I am saying with all responsibility that this [attack] was politically motivated," Erkinbaev said. "I link it with my decision to run for president."

Erkinbaev is also known for his alleged ties with criminal groups and his alleged involvement in drug trafficking in Central Asia.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report)