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Kyrgyz Police Apologize For Stopping Opposition Leaders

Omurbek Tekebaev was one of those detained (file photo) (Courtesy Photo) BISHKEK, October 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kanybek Cholponbaev, the police chief of Kyrgyzstan's Kochkor district, said today that an incident involving several opposition leaders was a mistake and he apologized.

A group of masked men in camouflage uniforms stopped vehicles carrying Ata-Meken (Fatherland) leader Omurbek Tekebaev and Ak-Shumkar (White Falcon) leaders Temir Sariev and Kubatbek Baibolov, beat two of their bodyguards, and fired into the air before releasing the group.

None of the opposition leaders were hurt, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

Cholponbaev said the armed men were police conducting an operation against criminal groups and the opposition leaders were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In unrelated news, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has fired the director of the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Corporation (UTRK). Bakiev appointed former opposition leader Melis Eshimkanov to replace Kyias Moldokasymov. No reason was given for the change.

Eshimkanov, who co-owns the independent newspaper "Agym" (Stream), was one of the main leaders of the mass demonstrations against Bakiev held earlier this year, but has recently come to support several of Bakiev's policies.

The UTRK is currently being transformed from a state organization into a public-broadcasting station.

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