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Uzbekistan: Tashkent Points Finger At Neighbor, Foreign Media Over Andijon Violence

Uzbek officials have accused foreign media and NGOs of focusing only on civilian casualties Uzbekistan’s deputy prosecutor general gave a detailed account on Thursday of his government’s view of the May violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon. The Uzbek official said Islamic radicals crossed into eastern Uzbekistan from neighboring Kyrgyzstan and sought to cut the Fergana Valley off from Tashkent’s control. He also called into question the role of international media and humanitarian aid organizations just before and after the violence.

Prague, 16 September 2005 (RFE/RL) – The first 15 suspects in the Andijon violence are due to go on trial in Uzbekistan on 20 September.

Yesterday, Uzbek Deputy Prosecutor-General Anvar Nabiev gave a press conference to present the findings of the Uzbek parliament’s investigation into the Andijon violence.

"The terrorist acts in Andijon were actions thoroughly planned and organized by external destructive forces against the independent policies and national interests of Uzbekistan, aimed at changing the existing constitutional regime and creating an Islamic state that would serve their geopolitical interests,” Nabiev said.

The Uzbek government claims 187 people were killed in Andijon, most of them terrorists, soldiers, and local officials. Rights groups says the figure could be five times higher and that most of those killed were civilians who were protesting against poor social conditions and injustice.

Nabiev said the terrorists’ plan was to free members of radical Islamic movements from a prison, take control of Andijon, and blow up a strategic tunnel connecting the Ferghana Valley to the rest of Uzbekistan.

The ultimate goal, according to Nabiev, was to carve out an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley. He said the terrorists received $300,000 to buy weapons and make preparations and that three radical groups -- Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Turkestan, and Akramiya -- took part in the planning and attack.

Nabiev said the attackers crossed the border from neighboring Kyrgyzstan where they were preparing for the operation for several months. "Shortly before the [Andijon] events, weapons and ammunition were bought in the Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad and then smuggled by the terrorists into Uzbekistan," he said.

Nabiev also accused Kyrgyz authorities of being “tolerant” toward terrorists, listing the Osh central sports stadium, a school, and an abandoned firing range as the places where the terrorists were able to prepare.
"As I have already said, we do not have any information today that militants were trained on Kyrgyz territory. We have neither official nor operational information that they were trained on Kyrgyz territory. The accusations that the leadership of our country connived at that are all the more groundless." - Kyrgyz official

In a sign of heightened Uzbek-Kyrgyz tensions, Kyrgyzstan’s AKIpress news agency yesterday reported there was a confrontation between Kyrgyz border guards and Uzbek soldiers last week in which both sides called in reinforcements.

Immediately after Nabiev’s remarks, Kyrgyz Deputy Security Council Secretary Valerii Khan denied that his country was involved in any way.

"All these accusations are absolutely groundless," Khan said. "As I have already said, we do not have any information today that militants were trained on Kyrgyz territory. We have neither official nor operational information that they were trained on Kyrgyz territory. The accusations that the leadership of our country connived at that are all the more groundless."

Among the 15 suspects to go on trial next week over the Andijon violence are three Kyrgyz citizens. Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov said yesterday that he still didn’t know the details of their case.

During his remarks, Nabiev also accused international media of presenting a one-sided account of the events in Andijon. He said the media neglected to mention the militants’ raids and killing of local officials and police and instead concentrated on the alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians by Uzbek security forces.

"Even those correspondents who saw with their own eyes the brutalities and outrage of the terrorists in the local government building deliberately kept silent, contrary to the generally accepted norms of journalistic ethics, about the evil deeds of the criminals. Strangely enough, bandits running around with guns in their hands became the heroes of their interviews and were presented as peaceful citizens," Nabiev said.

The international media widely reported that a police station and a prison came under attack on the night of 12-13 May. Attackers seized weapons, freed prisoners, and then moved into Andijon taking local officials and police hostage.

As they did, a large crowd assembled in the city’s central square to continue a protest against the trial of local businessmen accused of being members of Akramiya. Witnesses say most of those who died in Andijon were protesters killed in firing from government troops.

Nabiev charged that “representatives of a number of foreign rights organizations, media, and international humanitarian-aid societies, informed well in advance,” started gathering in the area neighboring the Andijon region -- Osh, Aravan, Kara-suu and Jalal-Abad, at the start of May.

He said these groups arrived with the intention to “scatter about slander on the activities of the authorities and law-enforcement agencies.”

International human rights and media-freedom organizations have criticized Uzbekistan for trying to censor news about the events in Andijon and for arresting journalists who have tried to investigate them.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz and Uzbek services contributed to this report)

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