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Tuesday, May 17, 2005
 

Digging graves as soldiers move through the streets

Cemetery workers hastily buried 37 bodies in a mass grave in the eastern city of Andijan on Tuesday as residents mourned what witnesses said were hundreds killed last week by security forces in the worst unrest in Uzbekistan since it won independence. The outside world still has much to learn about the bloody events since Friday in the Uzbek city of Andijon and the region around it. But what is known suggests that President Islam Karimov responded to a large rebellion involving both armed militants and thousands of ordinary citizens with a military assault in which scores, some reports say many hundreds, of people were indiscriminately gunned down. If so, the assault would be in keeping with Mr. Karimov's long-standing practice of responding to a real, if limited, Islamic extremist threat by brutally suppressing all opposition and rejecting any steps toward economic or political liberalization.
It should raise the question of why the United States continues to support such criminal and self-defeating policies by partnering with the very military that carried out the attack. The first step by the administration and other Western governments must be to demand, as the Bush administration and Britain did yesterday, that Mr. Karimov not only allow access to the blockaded city but that he also accept an international investigation to determine what happened.
What is known so far suggests that the violence was preceded by the government's prosecution of 23 private businessmen, on charges of supporting an Islamic extremist group. For weeks there were peaceful demonstrations. On Thursday, armed militants broke into the prison, freeing the defendants as well as up to 2,000 other prisoners. They took over the government administration building. The next day a crowd numbering in the thousands gathered outside. most were there to protest political and economic conditions. Islam Karimov traveled to the city early Friday and oversaw fitful negotiations with the militants in the government building. When these failed, he ordered army units into the square, where they opened fire on the crowd from armored cars. Troops opened fire on another large crowd where some militants may have taken refuge. A respected local doctor said 500 bodies were laid out there Sunday. Other civilians were reportedly fired on and killed while trying to cross the nearby border into Kyrgyzstan. Islam Karimov depicted all of the protesters as Islamic militants, adding that "attempts to develop democracy" would only play into the hands of such extremists. Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice pointed out that the problem in Uzbekistan is the opposite: It is the lack of "pressure valves that come from a more open political system." Islam Karimov ignores such prodding from the State Department, and understandably so, since he has the Pentagon's unconditional support for a "strategic partnership" by which the United States operates at an air base outside Tashkent.
Uzbek toll mount as unrest spreads CNN International
EDITORIAL: Clash in Uzbekistan Asahi Shimbun
Journal of Turkish Weekly - Telegraph.co.uk - New York Times - All Headline News - all 1,750 related ยป

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