The uneasy standoff between Islamic insurgents and Kyrgyz troops continues in the Osh Region’s Batken and Chon-Alai districts. The insurgents have withdrawn from several villages to quarters at the edge of the same villages–a step which has been followed by the return of some local residents who had fled their homes. Kyrgyz and Uzbek defense ministers and other military officials convened at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek operational headquarters in the district center of Batken on September 12 to discuss joint military measures. The Uzbek side yesterday denied reports that it was pressuring Kyrgyzstan to intensify military operations against the rebels.
In the city of Osh, the administrative center of the Osh region, the authorities have arrested thirteen local residents for “disseminating extremist religious literature” and “urging the creation of an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley.” These reports, if correct, substantiate Uzbekistan’s official analysis of the situation. The Ferghana Valley is shared between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Osh being situated in the Kyrgyz portion.
In Tashkent, a seemingly coordinated campaign in the state media is accusing the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) of supporting the rebels in Kyrgyzstan, who are mostly Uzbeks. The UTO has lost no time responding in an official statement that the Uzbek government’s internal policies are primarily responsible for the situation. While disclaiming any support for the rebels, the UTO commented that Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are “not required to protect the regime of President Islam Karimov from his political opponents.” The UTO’s statement is almost certainly to the liking of the Tajik government.
Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev arrived yesterday in Germany for an official visit. Akaev’s absence from his country is not an indication of self-confidence, but suggests instead that he expects the crisis to drag on and that no major decisions will be required of him in the coming days at the very least (Itar-Tass, Asia-Plus, Kyrgyz Habar, Kyodo, September 11-13).
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