Monday, March 21, 2005


Protestors Seize Buildings in Kyrgyzstan

Associated Press - Thousands of opposition activists stormed three government buildings in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on Monday, forcing security forces to flee in the latest in a wave of protests to demand President Askar Akayev's resignation.

An initial group of about 1,000 protesters, armed with clubs and flammable liquid and chanting "Akayev Go!," took control of the main administration building in Osh, the country's second largest city. Activists had first stormed the building Friday, but were ousted by security forces Saturday before retaking the building Monday.

The protesters then grew in number to about 2,000 and overran the regional police and security stations in the city, about 186 miles south of the capital Bishkek. Those buildings had been largely evacuated by officials who were anticipating the takeovers.

Akayev's aide Abdil Seghizbayev said security forces would not take action against the protesters.

"The government's position is to avoid any conflict and sit down at negotiating table," he said.

But talks would be possible only after order is restored in the country, Seghizbayev said.

"Neither authorities nor opposition leaders can control the crowd right now," he said. "If an (opposition) leader emerges who can control the protesters, the government will be ready to talk to him."


An opposition leader said Sunday that talks would only be possible if Akayev himself sits down at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, the protesters in Osh gathered on the city's main square and burned a billboard picture of Akayev.

"This is a new day in our history," said Omurbek Tekebayev, a senior official of the opposition Ata-Jurt movement. He said the opposition would create alternative government bodies throughout the country.

"Power in Osh has been taken over by people!" senior opposition figure Anvar Artykov told the protesters. "I congratulate you on our victory and urge you to maintain order."

The opposition has launched similar protests in at least eight other cities and towns over the past few weeks.

The unrest began early this month to protest against alleged election breaches in the Feb. 27 parliamentary polls, and intensified after the subsequent run-offs that the opposition said were seriously flawed.

On Saturday, about 8,000 people protested in three cities. On Sunday, 10,000 opposition supporters stormed a police station in Jalal-Abad, 161 miles south of Bishkek, burning down two of the three buildings at the police station and forcing all the police officers to flee.

At least 14 police officers and 7 protesters were injured in Sunday's riot, Seghizbayev said.

Some analysts have suggested Kyrgyzstan is ripe for an outburst of mass protest similar to the peaceful revolutions that have swept two other former Soviet republics over the past two years: Georgia and Ukraine.