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Turkmen Detainees From Brawl Released After Chinese Request

ASHGABAT -- The last 30 of some 200 Turkmen workers detained after a huge brawl between Chinese and Turkmen workers at an energy company in eastern Turkmenistan have been released, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

The September 12 clashes involved workers for a Chinese energy company building a natural-gas pipeline in the eastern Samandepe and Yoloten regions of Turkmenistan.

The brawl left at least 15 Chinese workers hospitalized with injuries and hundreds detained, including about 200 Turkmen.

Turkmen workers had complained of discrimination -- with Chinese employees allegedly getting higher wages for the same work -- and poor working conditions.

The release of the detainees reportedly comes after a request by officials from the Chinese company following a strike by the Turkmen workers who had been released, which resulted in a 10-day work stoppage.

The Chinese company has reportedly pledged to fulfill the demands by the Turkmen employees to improve working conditions.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Ashgabat have not commented on the issue.

The $7.3 billion Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline project began in 2007 and will take natural gas from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and on to China.

Gas is scheduled to begin flowing by the end of this year and will be at full capacity in 2011.