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One Dead As Kyrgyz Police, Ex-President's Supporters Clash

By RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service August 07, 2019

KOI-TASH, Kyrgyzstan -- One officer has died as Kyrgyz special forces battle supporters of former President Almazbek Atambaev, who are trying to prevent his arrest after security officials stormed his residence.

A hospital in the capital, Bishkek, confirmed the death after members of an elite police force raided the compound on the outskirts of the city as they sought to detain Atambaev, who has been refusing to obey a subpoena in an unspecified criminal investigation.

The Health Ministry later said the officer died from a gunshot wound. It said 35 people were wounded in the clash, including 14 police officers.

RFE/RL correspondents at the scene said the crackle of gunfire continued overnight, but it was still unclear whether the 62-year-old Atambaev had been apprehended or not after the security forces, many of whom wore masks, raided the residential compound in the village of Koi-Tash.

They also reported a small fire in one of the outlying buildings within the compound and that Atambaev's supporters had taken control of the first floor of the main building.

Atambaev was in the courtyard shaking hands with supporters when the assault on the compound began.

A video showed him being whisked away, but still within the sprawling premises, by his security people and it was unclear as to whether he had been captured by the police.

Interfax quoted a lawyer for Atambaev as saying the former president was "in a safe place," while another media outlet said he had been taken to an unknown location.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard during the initial invasion and continued into the night as supporters poured into the area.

Police were seen firing tear gas into crowds that had gathered outside the heavily fortified compound as they looked for a way to enter it.

Video appeared to show dozens of supporters had managed to get into the compound.

Supporters said they had captured several special-forces oagents, but the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (UKMK) denied the report.

The Interior Ministry said it was sending additional forces to the compound as well.

The Health Ministry said 23 people had been taken to hospital with unspecified injuries.

Video shortly after the police raid began showed one male with a gunshot wound to the leg.

"The forces used only rubber bullets, no other bullets were used. The operation continues," the UKMK said in a statement while accusing the supporters of firing live rounds.

The office of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said in a statement that he had interrupted his vacation and was returning to Bishkek from a resort at Issyk-Kul Lake.

Atambaev, who was limited to a single six-year presidential term by the constitution, vocally backed Jeenbekov in an October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have traded accusations of incompetence and a lack of professionalism in recent months.

The news website 24.kg reported that one of its journalists, Aida Jumasheva, was wounded by a rubber bullet.

Another person, who identified himself as Nurbek Kasymbekov, Atambaev's public defender, said that he was beaten by the police forces. He had a severely swollen eye and blood stains on his shirt.

The storming of the compound comes after Deputy Interior Minister Mirlan Kanimetov and several other officials visited Atambaev on July 22 after he had refused to obey a subpoena for a third time.

Under Kyrgyz law, a person who refuses to comply with two subpoenas can be forcibly detained for questioning. But authorities in Bishkek previously had not attempted to detain Atambaev.

He faces five counts of criminally abusing his office when he was Kyrgyzstan's president from 2011 to 2017 -- including corruption, abuse of office, and illegally enriching himself.

Atambaev has rejected all charges against him, saying they are politically motivated.

Atambaev's lawyer Sergei Slesarev has said that amendments made in May to Kyrgyzstan's law on the immunity of former presidents are unconstitutional.

Kyrgyz lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to remove Atambaev's immunity in a move that cleared the way for his prosecution.

The embattled former president has spent most of his time since the June 27 parliamentary vote at his residential compound and has publicly stated that he has weapons.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyz-police- storm-ex-president-s-house-near -bishkek/30097824.html

Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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