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Kyrgyz Report: August 17, 1999

17 August 1999

Officials in the government and presidential administration said on 17 August there is no new information on developments in Batken district, where the Kyrgyz forces began a military operation against the band of Uzbek guerrillas the previous day. But Security Ministry spokesman and deputy directorate head Talant Razzakov gave an interview to an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 17 August in which he confirmed again that Kyrgyzstan paid $50,000 cash to the guerrillas to release four hostages. Razzakov also confirmed that on 15 August Uzbek planes bombed the areas in Kyrgyzstan where the guerrillas are entrenched. According to Razzakov, they are bandits who took hostage Kyrgyz officials who came to hold negotiations, and bombing them is a fair action. Razzakov said Kyrgyzstan had to pay them to release its citizens. Now, Kyrgyz forces are trying to disarm them. The guerrillas are said to be supporters of Juma Namangani, a wanted criminal in Uzbekistan. They have military bases in Tajikistan and were trained in Afghanistan.

According to Razzakov, the guerrillas' actions form part of Namangani's actions aimed at forming an Islamic state in the Fergana valley, including Andijan, Fergana and Namangan regions of Uzbekistan and Leninabad region of Tajikistan. There are about 1,000 men in the Namangani's band. Razzakov noted that religious extremism could also emerge in Kyrgyzstan. He cited two explosions in Osh in May 1998, after which Kyrgyz security services found a large amount of weapon in Bishkek. Also, four members of Namangani's band were detained in Kyrgyzstan in 1997 and five people accused of taking part in organizing terror acts in Tashkent last February have also been detained in Kyrgyzstan. All of them have been extradited to Uzbekistan. According to Razzakov, Kyrgyzstan will take strong measures against religious extremism and rebel actions in the future.

According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev sent a condolence telegram to Turkish President Suleiman Demirel on 17 August. An earthquake hit the northwestern area of Turkey that morning, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring more than 10,000.

According to the governmental press service, Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev sent a telegram to Vladimir Putin on 17 August, congratulating him upon his confirmation in the post of Russian prime minister.

Tolobek Omuraliev, chairman of the governmental commission on land issues, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 17 August that the commission is trying to identify waste land in Bishkek suburbs to give it to young people who want to construct their own houses. However, he said their demand to turn the 590-hectare tract of arable land on the border between Bishkek city and Sokuluk district into plots of land and distribute among them is illegal. According to Omuraliev, this 590-hectare plot was given to Bishkek city from the Sokuluk district in 1993 but was returned to Sokuluk in 1997.

The National Bank announced in Bishkek on 17 August that the activity of the International Business Bank has been suspended and temporary management of it has been introduced. According to an official from the National Bank, the owner of the International Business Bank has tried to sell the same shares of the bank to different people. Also, the reserves of the bank have been exhausted. The bank was organized with the help from former Mayor of Bishkek Felix Kulov. Kulov resigned last April, accusing President Akayev of undemocratic rule, and organized a new political party last month.

Exchange offices in Bishkek sold one US dollar for 43.0 soms on 17 August. The rate of the som, Kyrgyz currency, was 42.3 soms to the $1 at the inter-bank market in Bishkek that day, at which the National bank sold $60,000.

National Security Ministry spokesman Talant Razzakov confirmed in conversation with an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 16 August that Defense Ministry forces have begun a military operation against the band of 21 Uzbek guerrillas in Batken district. According to Razzakov, it is the second stage of the Kyrgyz authorities' action to neutralize the band, but the special unit of the Security Ministry, the Kalkan, is not yet involved in the operation. Razzakov also confirmed that Uzbek planes bombed some mountainous areas in the Batken district on 15 August in an attempt to hit the guerrillas, but refused to give more details.

Razzakov said that the hostages taken by the band on 5 August were released on 13 August after Kyrgyz officials had paid the guerrillas $50,000 in cash. The guerrillas had demanded $1 million. According to Razzakov, the Kyrgyz government had to pay a ransom because the hostages were in critical conditions. All of them are currently hospitalized in the city of Osh now.

"Vecherni Bishkek" wrote on 16 August that Uzbek planes bombed Batken the previous day as well as the Jergetal district of neighboring Tajikistan. According to the paper, the operation had been agreed with Kyrgyz leadership.

At a special press conference in Bishkek on the morning of 16 August, Security Council secretary General Esen Topoev said the guerrillas were still in the Jyluu-Suu canyon of Batken district and the Kyrgyz authorities were negotiating with them to persuade them to surrender their arms. Topoev said that even if the guerrillas surrender, they will be accused of illegally crossing the Kyrgyz state border and taking hostages, and will be tried under Kyrgyz laws.

Kyrgyz Ambassador to the U.S. and Canada Bakyt Abdrisayev announced in Bishkek on 16 August that a US Congress delegation will arrive in Bishkek on 18 August. The delegation includes several members of the Senate and the House committees on economic matters. They will meet in Kyrgyzstan with President Askar Akayev and other senior officials and discuss the economic situation in the country after it joined the World Trade Organization last October.

Central Election Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev announced in Bishkek on 16 August that President Askar Akayev has signed a special decree setting the date for the local elections in the country. According to the decree, elections to the village, town and city assemblies will be held on 17 October. Akayev is currently vacationing in the resort town of Cholpon-Ata on Lake Issyk-Kul.

Elections to the district and regional assemblies should be held early in 2000. The next parliamentary elections should be held in Kyrgyzstan in October 2000 and presidential elections in December 2000.

According to the presidential press service, President Askar Akayev has signed the two decrees appointing officials. According to one of the decrees, Akayev suggests the general meeting of the Kyrgyzgas joint-stock company should elect Latypjan Sagynbaev chairman of its council of directors. The government is a shareholder of the company. Sagynbaev is the chairman of the Stroyinnovatsiya foundation. The incumbent head of the company is Mr.Likhachev, who was elected earlier this year.

President Askar Akayev also proposes to the leadership of the Kara-Balta mining complex to elect Narynbek Kojokmatov director general of that complex. Kojokmatov is deputy head of a department in the presidential administration and had previously been director general of the Kadamjai antimony plant. The Director General of the Kara-Balta complex, parliament deputy Jalgap Kazakbaev, was arrested on 22 June and is accused of embezzlement and corruption.

The presidential press service announced in Bishkek on 14 August that all four hostages taken by Uzbek guerrillas in the Batken district a week ago were released the previous evening. They were the head of the Batken district administration Abdyrakman Mamataliev, a head of the security service of the district and two officers from the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry. According to the press service, a fifth hostage, Colonel Mamat Kongurbaev, was held for three days and was released on 11 August.

No official information on the band of 21 guerrillas that seized the hostages was disclosed, and all government and presidential administration officials contacted by RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau refused to give any further information. However, an official of the Batken district police told our correspondent in Bishkek by phone on 14 August that negotiations with the guerrillas are continuing. The Kyrgyz authorities want either to disarm them or to expel from Kyrgyz territory. According to the official, the leaders of all Kyrgyzstan's law enforcement bodies are still in Batken.

Colonel Mirbek Koilubaev, deputy head of the Defense Ministry's border guard directorate, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 14 August that Kyrgyzstan has begun to guard its state frontier with China itself. According to him, all Russian border guards have already left the border. Koilubaev says the Kyrgyz and Russian sides are dividing property and equipment along the border now and will finish doing so by 25 August.

The final agreement on shifting responsibility for the guarding of state frontiers of Kyrgyzstan from the Russian border service to Kyrgyz border guards was signed in Bishkek on 17 July.

Presidential press secretary Kanybek ImanAliyev announced in Bishkek on 13 August that all four hostages taken by Uzbek guerrillas in the Batken district a week earlier have been released. According to him, a fifth hostage, Colonel Mamat Kongurbaev, was in captivity for three days and was released on 11 August. The other four were taken hostage on 6 August and released late on 13 August.

The head of the security department in Presidential Administration, Bolot Januzakov, told our correspondent in Bishkek earlier on 13 August that "substantial information" would be released that night.

A duty officer in the Batken district police, Omurbek Ernazarov, confirmed by phone to our correspondent in Bishkek that all the hostages have been released and taken by helicopter to Bishkek.