'Anti-Terrorist' Raids Held In Uzbekistan's Volatile Autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic
By Current Time January 20, 2023
Police and security officers have held a series of "anti-terrorist" raids in Uzbekistan's volatile Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, where unprecedented anti-government protests last year left 21 people dead.
Karakalpakstan's Interior Minister Bakhtiyar Torebekov said on January 20 that 132 persons who had been added to the wanted list were located and detained during the raids, which have been ongoing since December.
According to Torebekov, 89,000 homes were searched and 18,200 other locations were checked. He also said Karakalpakstan's residents handed in to authorities -- "of their own will" -- 344 rifles and ammunition.
Protests in Karakalpakstan in July were sparked by Tashkent's announcement of a planned change to the constitution that many felt would undermine the region's right to self-determination.
The violence in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, forced President Shavkat Mirziyoev to make a rare about-face and scrap the proposal.
Mirziyoev accused "foreign forces" of being behind the unrest, without further explanation, before backing away from the proposed changes.
Uzbek authorities say 21 people died during the dispersal of the protests. Twenty-two men and women are currently on trial in the city of Bukhara, around 600 kilometers from both Nukus and Tashkent. They are accused of several offenses, of which the most serious one, "undermining constitutional order," carries a 20-year prison sentence.
Karakalpaks are a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.
Karakalpakstan is home to fewer than 2 million people, out of a nation of 35 million, but it covers more than one-third of Uzbekistan's territory.
The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the violence.
With reporting by UzA
Copyright (c) 2023. 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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