Kyrgyz police detain ousted president’s brother, tensions still high in Central Asian nation

By Peter Leonard, AP
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kyrgyz police detain ex-president’s brother

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Police in Kyrgyzstan have detained a brother of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, authorities said Thursday — the latest effort to solidify control over the country’s tense south and dismantle the former leader’s entourage.

Hopes for sustained peace were further bolstered when the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced it would send an international police force to the southern region of the Central Asian nation.

Akhmat Bakiyev was captured Wednesday night in a special operation outside the family’s political stronghold in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, which was ravaged last month by a wave of violence against ethnic Uzbeks.

Police said Akhmat Bakiyev immediately confessed to involvement in the unrest, which was sparked by small clashes in the nearby city of Osh that swelled into devastating rampages by ethnic Kyrgyz mobs on Uzbek neighborhoods. The violence left hundreds of minority Uzbeks dead and forced 400,000 others to flee.

The violence had political overtones, since many southern Kyrgyz backed Bakiyev, who was ousted in a bloody revolt in April, while ethnic Uzbeks supported the interim government.

The latest arrest raised the possibility of new violence but also showed the government was determined to halt months of turmoil. A caretaker government is now leading the country until elections in October.

The interim government has offered cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of Bakiyev’s fugitive colleagues, including ex-Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov. The rewards of $20,000 to $100,000 are colossal in a country where the average monthly salary is $130.

On Wednesday, the former deputy of the state guard service, Nurlan Temirbayev, turned himself in. He was wanted on charges of murder and abuse of office.

Another Bakiyev brother, Zhanybek, is suspected by authorities of giving the order to open fire on protesters during street protests April 7 that led to his brother’s ouster. More than 85 people died during those clashes, which were fueled by anger over corruption and falling living standards.

Zhanybek Bakiyev is still on the run, while Kurmanbek Bakiyev is living in Belarus. Kyrgyz authorities are seeking the former president’s extradition, but Belarus has rebuffed those requests.

Security chief Keneshbek Duishebayev this week warned that persistent tensions in the country still pose grave risks for the future.

OSCE officials say it could be several weeks before 52 police officers — who will advise the Kyrgyz police force — are recruited and dispatched to Kyrgyzstan. The mission has the backing of President Roza Otunbayeva, who says its presence may prevent human rights abuses in the south.

Rights activists say Kyrgyz security forces have been singling out minority ethnic Uzbeks for arrests in the drive to investigate and punish those responsible for the June violence.

Not everyone is happy about the OSCE deployment, however.

Osh mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov says local authorities are fully able to cope and demonstrators in the last two days have picketed OSCE headquarters and parliament in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek to protest the planned deployment.

An international inquiry into the June violence, called for by Western governments and rights groups, will publish its provisional findings by the end of October.

Leonard reported from Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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