Uzbek president blames Andijan unrest on radical group
Uzbek President Islam Karimov said Saturday an organization linked to the outlawed radical Hizb ut- Tahrir group was behind the unrest in Andijan that has left 10 government troops and many more protesters dead Friday in violent clashes, the Interfax news agency reported.
"The organizers of the unrest were 'Akramites,' a new offshoot of the Hizb ut-Tahrir group. Its goals, which are unacceptable for us, are hatred and denial of the secular way of development," Karimov told a press conference in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
"According to information we have, they are brainwashing young people with ideas of creating a unified Islamic state," Karimov said.
The radical Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir group was also held responsible by the Uzbek government for murdering dozens of people in Uzbekistan last year.
Karimov said the center that fomented the unrest in Andijan lies in south Kyrgyzstan and the Fergana valley. Rioters made phone calls to the Kyrgyz towns of Osh and Dzhalal-Abad from the regional government building they captured, he said.
Armed protesters began to rally in Andijan Wednesday to demand the release of 23 men who have been on trial since February for links to the Hizb ut-Tahrir group but have pleaded not guilty.
Violence culminated days of protest Friday with witnesses reporting vehicles and a theater being torched and bloodshed in clashes near a downtown square.
Witnesses reported a night of relative calm before bursts of gunfire at dawn Saturday.
Karimov described the developments in Andijan as an attempt to copy the recent events in Kyrgyzstan. "We realize that such developments spill across the borders to the territories of neighboring countries," he said.
Karimov said the authorities had tried to create favorable conditions for negotiations with the rioters, who "were offered transport to leave along their chosen route," but the government could not accept rioters' condition to release jailed supporters in different parts of the country.
"No country negotiates such things with criminals," Karimov said.
The situation in the former Soviet republic caused wide concern after governments collapsed in three other former Soviet republics Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past one and a half years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Karimov on the phone Saturday to express deep concern about the threat to stability in Central Asia.