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Uzbek NGO Says Many More Killed In Kogon Blast

Following an explosion at a Soviet-era arms depot on July 9-10 in southern Uzbekistan, activists of the nongovernmental Rapid Response Group decided to conduct their own investigation into the number of casualties.

They say that by visiting the town of Kogon and interviewing eyewitnesses, they have identified at least 27 people who died in the blasts. Government officials said the blast killed three people and injured 21. The group also says that the figures could be higher still, as their report does not include casualties among the police.

Rapid Response Group representative Shuhrat Ganiev, one of authors of the report, says that the main problem in the first days after the blast was the lack of information. "It is a tradition from Soviet times, the government still uses this policy to prevent panic among the people and the consequences of this policy were tragic in Kogon," Ganiev told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service.

Government attempts to block all information about the accident gave rise to a flood rumors in the surrounding region. By noon of the second day after the blast, many people had seen a mobile-phone recording of a Russian TV news report about the accident, while official Uzbek media were silent.

After seeing the program, many Bukhara residents began leaving the city in chaos, with one person saying that he "decided to leave for Tashkent because [Russian TV] said more than ten thousand railway cars could explode."

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