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Uzbekistan Raises Weekend Gunfight Death Toll To Three

ALMATY (Reuters) -- The death toll from a shootout in Uzbekistan between security forces and gunmen last weekend has risen to three from two, local media have reported.

Governments in Central Asia, a resource-rich former Soviet region north of Afghanistan, have blamed growing violence on a rise in Islamist militancy and "terrorists" linked to fighting between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban across the border.

Uzbekistan earlier said it had killed two bandits in a gunfight on August 29 during a raid in a residential area of the capital, Tashkent, days ahead of the key Independence Day holiday.

President Islam Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous nation, with an iron fist since 1989. He tolerates no opposition and critics have accused him of jailing thousands of dissidents, a charge the government denies.