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Shoot-Out Reported In Turkmen Capital

It is unclear who was fighting Turkmen security forces in Ashgabat.
A deadly shoot-out reportedly took place overnight in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat between members of an unidentified group and security forces. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat has confirmed a shoot-out in the city occurred, but no further details are immediately available.

RFE/RL's Turkmen Service says there are reports of dead and wounded on both sides. Government-controlled Turkmen media have not provided any information.

Halmurad Glychdurdy, an RFE/RL correspondent living in the Turkmen capital, says he heard the shooting and explosions all night long.

"I heard myself all the explosions and shooting," he said. "We have never experienced something like that [here in Ashgabat]. We did not suspect [in the beginning] that it was some kind of a clash. But when this shooting continued all night, no one could ignore that it was."

Glychdurdy says people were scared and at first some thought it was a fireworks display, with many people going out to see it before they quickly realized that something was definitely wrong. The streets of the capital were soon deserted.

Glychdurdy says the fighting took place near the main railway station in a part of Ashgabat called Chitrovka. It is far from the city center.

He says it is impossible to tell who was fighting with the police -- some say they were Islamists, though that is unconfirmed. It is also impossible to say how many people may have died in the clash. Some say that several police were killed as well as some bystanders and some of the gunmen, but those reports are also unconfirmed.

According to some eyewitnesses, Turkmen security forces used tanks and heavy artillery during the clashes, which ended early on September 13.

Glychdurdy says there is no official information from the Turkmen government about the incident. But RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports that Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov held a cabinet meeting last night.

The state media has not reported the incident.

"Nobody knows and nobody tells us how many people have died. Simply, the state provides no information. That's why different, contradictory rumors are circulating," Glychdurdy says. " We were watching TV last night but there was no information there. As usual they were broadcasting concerts all the time. As always, various calm discussions about the development of the Turkmen nation were on the air."

Glychdurdy says he and other journalists tried to reach the place of the incident but were stopped by police. He says it is also impossible to call people living in Chitrovka, as all phone lines have been cut.

Currently there is no official curfew, but RFE/RL sources say that security officials have told the residents not to leave their homes after 7 p.m. on September 13.
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