The recent unrest in eastern Uzbekistan removed any doubts about whether President Islam Karimov is willing to resort to deadly force to maintain power.
The bloodshed in Andijon followed months of peaceful protests over the trial of 23 businessmen accused of membership of the Islamic extremist Akramiya group and ties to the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, a charge they deny. Events turned violent when an armed group attacked the local prison and freed perhaps thousands of inmates overnight on 12-13 May, also occupying a local government building and demanding the release of the "Akramiya" defendants. Thousands then turned out to demonstrate in central Andijon on 13 May before government forces opened fire on the crowd. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, depending on the source, but even the government conceded that at least 169 people are dead. Rights groups and political opponents put the death toll as high as 750 or 1,000.
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