Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 194

On October 18, Defense Minister Esen Topoev reported to President Askar Akaev that Kyrgyzstan’s territory has finally been completely cleared of the Uzbek-led Islamic rebels. The Kyrgyz military in any case continues its search for rebel groups in the mountains along the Tajik border. The retreating rebels have abandoned food reserves and uniforms, but are said to have laid mines in the passes which lead from Kyrgyzstan into Tajikistan. Akaev congratulated the military and security forces on their “bloodless victory” in pushing the insurgents back into Tajikistan–the country to which they had moved earlier from Uzbekistan.

While in Kyrgyzstan, the insurgent leaders demanded free passage to Uzbekistan in return for releasing their hostages (see below). Now they demand a free passage from Tajikistan into Afghanistan, whence they presumably hope to make their way to Uzbekistan–their main target. Uzbekistan, which is also the region’s number one military power, is responding with warnings that it may intervene militarily to crush the rebels on foreign territory. In an official note to Kyrgyzstan, made public on October 15, the Uzbek government offered military assistance including troops for joint Kyrgyz-Uzbek operations against the rebels. The note chided the Kyrgyz leadership for “impermissibly” contenting itself with pushing the rebels into Tajikistan, instead of destroying them, and warned Kyrgyzstan that the rebels may return in greater strength in the spring.

A similar Uzbek note to the Tajik government on October 18 chided the latter for allowing the rebels to “return to Tajikistan unimpeded.” Reminding Dushanbe of its “obligation to defend the Tajik-Kyrgyz border,” the Uzbek note offered–again–military and security cooperation to “assist” Tajikistan in that task. These warnings are consistent with Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s recent statement in a press interview that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have passively allowed the rebels to move about and that Uzbekistan has “a full right to conduct military operations against the terrorist bases in Tajikistan.”

On October 18, the rebels released Major-General Anarbek Shamkeev, commander of the Kyrgyz Internal Affairs Ministry’s troops, and a Kyrgyz colonel from captivity. Kyrgyz government emissaries negotiated the release in return for what is being termed “humanitarian aid”–presumably food and/or warm clothing for the rebels. Negotiations continue toward the release of the four Japanese geologists and other captives, all of whom are now at rebel encampments in Tajikistan. Both Kyrgyzstan and the Japanese government rule out a monetary ransom. Tokyo said so clearly on October 18 for the first time. But granting the rebels free passage from Tajikistan to Afghanistan is totally out of either Bishkek’s or Tokyo’s hands (KyrgyzHabar, Tashkent Radio and Television, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Mashhad), Kyodo, Itar-Tass, October 15-19; Vremya MN, October 14-20; see the Monitor, September 24, 29, October 5, 12, 14; the Fortnight in Review, September 24).

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