Kyrgyzstan: After Osh Hijacking, Police Target Uzbek Town
Police in Kyrgyzstan say they have killed “a terrorist” who hijacked a minibus in the country’s volatile south. Authorities have been highlighting the threat of terrorism as the country faces presidential elections on October 30, designed to put an end to 18 months of uncertainty since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled during a bloody uprising in early 2010. The bus was traveling from the market town of Kara-Suu to Osh when the suspect, fleeing a police operation, apparently boarded and took the passengers hostage on October 8. Kara-Suu is a predominantly ethnic Uzbek town, which Kyrgyz police describe as a hotbed of Islamist extremists. None of the 15 passengers on the bus were harmed, local media said. A police sniper reportedly killed the suspect at a roadblock outside Osh. Interfax quoted security officials saying operations were continuing in Kara-Suu District to find accomplices. Such a delicate mission could easily heighten ethnic tensions. Since violence between the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in June 2010, police – who are overwhelmingly ethnic Kyrgyz – have regularly focused operations on Uzbeks. Human rights groups charge that violent police bias against Uzbeks has become business as usual. Tensions remain high across southern Kyrgyzstan. This week, protestors in Jalal-Abad Province blocked the country’s main highway demanding authorities release four Kyrgyz police charged with torturing an Uzbek man to death.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.