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Shots Fired At Bishkek Rally

Anti-Gold-Mine Protest Turns Violent in Kyrgyzstan
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BISHKEK -- More than 1,000 people have clashed with security forces and police trying to enter the building of the Kyrgyz parliament in Bishkek.

The protesters called for the nationalization of the largest gold-mining company operating in Kyrgyzstan.

Toronto-based Centerra Gold Company owns the Kumtor gold mine in the country's north, which has been the source of a series of toxic spills in previous years.

In the last three months, Centerra also has been facing accusations of using accounting tricks to reduce its tax liabilities, an allegation the company denies.

Kamchybek Tashiev, the leader of opposition Ata-Jurt (Homeland) party, joined the demonstration on October 3 and told protesters that he and his supporters could change the situation around Kumtor and solve other issues faced by the country.

"Nobody but the nation should run the Kumtor [gold mine]," he said. "We have to take power [in our hands] in order to determine our politics and establish statehood. Only then will there be change."

Tashiev then urged the demonstrators to overthrow the government.

"Genghis Khan took power just with the help of his 17 sons," he said. "Why should we bring 10,000 people here to gain power? Why should we bring 20,000 people here to gain power? We don't have to. If necessary, we can go now and take the power! We must take it! We must take it! We must!"

Gunshot Wounds

Security forces used tear gas and dogs to prevent the protesters from entering the fenced perimeter around the parliament building.

Some 50 protesters, including Tashiev, managed to break in, but Kyrgyz security troops helped by mounted police subsequently forced them out.

A Kyrgyz Health Ministry official told RFE/RL that two men and a woman involved in the protest action had been hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Seven more protesters were taken to hospital with other wounds not related to gunshots. The lives of all 10 patients are not in danger.

Interior Minister Zarylbek Rysaliev told RFE/RL that police and security forces had the situation under full control, adding that some of the protesters had been detained. He did not say how many.

According to Rysaliev, Tashiev's possible arrest will be decided by the country's prosecutor-general. Tashiev leads his party's faction in parliament and enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution.

Most sympathizers of Tashiev's nationalist opposition party are from the country's south, which was the scene of deadly ethnic clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010.

Tashiev and his supporters have been increasingly critical of the government in recent months.

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