Kyrgyz arrest nephew of deposed president, accuse him of organizing ethnic riots

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kyrgyz arrest Bakiyev relative accused in unrest

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyz authorities said Friday they have arrested a nephew of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and charged him with helping organize the ethnic rioting that tore apart this Central Asian nation’s south.

Hundreds of people were killed and as many as 400,000 driven from their homes this month when Kyrgyz mobs rampaged through Uzbek neighborhoods in and around the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad.

Sandjar Bakiyev, 27, was detained in the mountains of the Jalal-Abad region despite “serious resistance” from him and his supporters, Interior Minister Bolot Sher said.

“Sandjar Bakiyev is one of the main participators in these events, in the mass unrest, the attempt to seize power in Jalal-Abad, and in the interethnic conflict in which he also took part with his group,” Melis Turganbayev, deputy Interior Minister, told reporters. “The identities of the other members of the group have already been established and they will be arrested.”

Prosecutors said they have “convincing and undeniable evidence” that Bakiyev was a key organizer of the unrest that started late on June 10.

Kyrgyz officials had previously claimed that the younger Bakiyev actively participated in the violence. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva told reporters that Bakiyev rode around Osh on armored personnel carriers, and other officials accused him of personally handing out weapons.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev was toppled in April after violent street protests in Bishkek, the capital. The new interim government has accused the Bakiyev clan of instigating the ethnic rioting in an attempt to undermine the new leadership and reassert control over southern Kyrgyzstan, a main hub for the Afghan heroin trade.

The deposed president, speaking from exile in Belarus, has denied involvement in the violence.

The impoverished, mountainous nation hosts the U.S. Manas air base, a key support center for the fight against the Taliban that is used by most troops entering or leaving Afghanistan.

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