Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 156

Kyrgyz officials admitted yesterday that the Islamic rebels in the Osh Region are more than holding their own in combat with Kyrgyz and Uzbek troops. The rebels have occupied two more villages in the Batken district, where they now control five villages. The officials cite evidence that the raiding force aims to reach an area of the Ferghana Valley where the borders of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan intersect. The rebels demand free passage with their weapons, but it is not clear whether they offer to trade their hostages–including a Kyrgyz general and four Japanese geologists–for the free passage. The Kyrgyz authorities, for their part, seem interested in negotiations, but rule out any concession which might–as President Askar Akaev said yesterday–“allow them to use Kyrgyzstan as a launching pad for attacking other countries.” The Kyrgyz and Uzbek authorities keep silent about their casualties; those casualties, according to Japanese officials present in the region, are mounting.

Russia’s defense minister, General Igor Sergeev, and the border troops commander, Colonel-General Konstantin Totsky, yesterday offered military support to Kyrgyzstan–if the country’s government requests it. Akaev responded that the country can handle the situation on its own. Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov also promised military support yesterday, but without specifying what form it might take. Tajik government troops are in any case as weak as those of Kyrgyzstan. The Dushanbe government yesterday began steps to close the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. The measure is belated; the rebels had virtually been allowed to cross into Kyrgyzstan last month by a Tajik government anxious to rid its own country of the rebels at any cost (Itar-Tass, Radios Bishkek and Dushanbe, AP, Reuters, Kyodo, August 25).

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