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Kyrgyzstan: Lawmaker Murdered In Apparent Mafia-Related Shooting

Kyrgyz lawmaker and businessman Bayaman Erkinbaev was shot dead last night in Bishkek. Erkinbaev, who was for a brief time among the country's presidential contenders earlier this year, had alleged connections to criminal groups in the southern Osh area. He is the second parliament deputy to be killed since June. His murder comes after a warning by Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman that contract murders were on the rise in the country. The Kyrgyz parliament today held an emergency session on the murder, with both President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov in attendance.

Prague, 22 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Erkinbaev died in a Bishkek hospital late yesterday after being shot several times outside his house.

Controversy seemed to follow the lawmaker since a previous murder attempt against him last April. At the time, Erkinbaev said the attack was linked to his presidential bid.

"With full responsibility I declare that this [assassination attempt] is a political order which I believe is linked to my decision to run for president," Erkinbaev said.

But there may have been other reasons -- Erkinbaev's alleged criminal ties among them.

In June, violence broke out in his native Osh region when guards shot guns into the air to disperse a crowd of angry protesters gathered outside an Osh hotel believed to be owned by Erkinbaev. The protesters were primarily merchants from the Kara-suu bazaar, one of the biggest such markets in Central Asia.

Erkinbaev allegedly held large financial interests in the Kara-suu bazaar. Several recent articles in the Kyrgyz press and on the Internet accused Erkinbaev of being involved in a number of illegal business ventures, including some linked to the market.

At today's emergency parliamentary session, Bakiev suggested Erkinbaev's murder was the work of a criminal group. Bakiev then criticized the country's law enforcement bodies as ineffective, and accused them of maintaining their own connections to mafia rings.

"The fact that criminal elements have merged with law enforcement agencies is not news to anybody. You all know this perfectly well, too. Among those sitting here are people who know perfectly well about it, who know who is connected to whom and how they are connected," Bakiev said.

Bakiev then lashed out at deputies, saying many of them, too, were at odds with the law, and possibly even involved with organized crime.

His comments prompted acting Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov to offer his resignation.

Prime Minister Feliks Kulov said Erkinbaev visited him only on 18 September and expressed fears that there would be an attempt on his life.

"I met with Bayaman Erkinbaev on Sunday. He was very alarmed when he came to see me. He told me whom he suspected [of trying to kill him]and he asked me to name that person if he [Erkinbaev] was killed. And I will give that person's name to the investigators," Kulov said.

In June, lawmaker Jyrgalbek Surabaldiev was killed in Bishkek. He too was alleged to have had criminal ties, and his murder was believed to have been tied to a dispute with Kyrgyz mafia groups.

Deputy Melis Eshimkanov said today that Erkinbaev's murder was part of a chain of events that included Surabaldiev's killing.

Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu warned earlier this month that contract killings in Kyrgyzstan were on the rise and great efforts were needed to bring the situation under control.

(Amirbek Usmonov and Janyl Chytyrbayeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

See also:

Kyrgyz Lawmaker Gunned Down

More news and analysis on Kyrgyzstan

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