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Turkmenistan: President Announces Arrest Of Shikhmuradov

Ashgabat, 26 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov (pictured) told diplomats in Ashgabat today that opposition figure Boris Shikhmuradov has been arrested. Niyazov's spokesman, Serdar Durdiev, told journalists that Shikhmuradov was detained inside the country. He gave no other details.

But Shikhmuradov, in a statement posted late yesterday on his website, said he planned to turn himself in to the National Security Ministry. He expressed hope that his arrest would stop what he called the persecution of "opposition-minded people" in Turkmenistan who have been implicated in the assassination attempt.

Shikhmuradov, a former foreign minister and ambassador to China, publicly broke with Niyazov's administration in 2001, pronouncing himself an opposition leader. He initially spent some time in Russia before continuing a life of exile in several countries.

Niyazov had accused Shikhmuradov of being the mastermind behind a failed assassination attempt in which the presidential motorcade was raked by machine gun fire last month in Ashgabat.

Shikhmuradov, in an interview earlier this month with RFE/RL, categorically denied the accusation.