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Kyrgyzstan: Islamic Militants Capture 20 Kyrgyz Soldiers

Bishkek, 26 August 1999 (RFE/RL) - Armed Islamic militants in southern Kyrgyzstan have captured a reconnaissance patrol of 20 Kyrgyz soldiers. Reports say the soldiers were captured late last night near the village of Karamyk while searching for the militants. Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev said today that Kyrgyz troops are preparing for an operation against the estimated 400 militants who have crossed into Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Tajikistan. In addition to the Kyrgyz soldiers, the militants -- who are mostly Uzbeks -- now hold at least four villages, more than 100 residents of those villages, a top official from Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry, and four Japanese geologists who were working at a gold-mining site in the area. The gunmen have made no demands. This is the second time this month that armed groups of Uzbeks have crossed into Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan and taken hostages. The Uzbeks are part of a larger group of refugees in Tajikistan, loyal to Juma Namangani, a wanted criminal in Uzbekistan.