Prague, 26 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Three of the people named by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov (pictured) as the organizers of an attempt on his life contacted RFE/RL's Turkmen Service today to deny the charge. Niyazov's motorcade came under fire yesterday morning in downtown Ashgabat as the Turkmen president traveled to work. Niyazov was not hurt, though one policeman and several bystanders were injured during the exchange of fire.
Niyazov said shortly afterward that former Deputy Agriculture Minister Sapar Iklymov planned the attack. Niyazov said Iklymov was helped by former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, former National Bank chief Khudaiberdy Orazov, and former Ambassador to Turkey Nurmukhammed Khanamov.
All four currently live outside Turkmenistan. Orazov, Khanamov, and Iklymov denied having any part in the attack.
Orazov questioned whether it really was an assassination attempt, noting that it was common knowledge that Niyazov's vehicles are double-armor plated. He said any attempt to kill Niyazov by using machine guns, as the attackers did, would therefore be futile. Orazov also questioned why the attackers let Niyazov's car pass by before they started their attack.
Turkmen authorities claimed today to have detained 16 people, four of them ethnic Georgians, in connection with the assassination attempt. The Russian human rights organization Memorial said the accurate figure was closer to 100. Iklymov said many of those arrested are his relatives.
Earler today, Niyazov's spokesman said Russia played a role in the failed assassination attempt on Niyazov yesterday. Serdar Durdiev said the orders to kill Niyazov came from abroad. Durdiev said he could not say for certain the order came from Russia, but the Reuters news agency quotes him as saying he is certain "political activists in Russia" are protecting "organizers and motivators."