Kyrgyz troops disperse anti-government protesters with tear gas, stun grenades

By Peter Leonard, AP
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Troops disperse protesters in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyz government forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters on Thursday, raising fears of new instability in the turbulent Central Asian nation.

Several dozen troops backed by armored vehicles also fired live shots in the air to break up a crowd that had gathered on a highway some 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of the capital, Bishkek.

The demonstrators, who support a former presidential hopeful, were traveling by bus to Bishkek when they were stopped by authorities earlier Thursday. The protesters gathered in small groups on the roadside after troops moved to disperse them, and the situation remained tense.

Earlier in the day, some 1,000 other supporters of the politician, Urmat Baryktabasov, marched across central Bishkek and gathered outside the parliament building. Participants in the rally denounced the interim authorities for what they called a lack of transparency and said that the nation isn’t ready for parliamentary elections set for October.

The provisional authorities have led the country since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was unseated in a bloody uprising in April. The interim government struggled to stop devastating rampages by ethnic Kyrgyz mobs on Uzbek neighborhoods that killed hundreds of minority Uzbeks in June.

Baryktabasov wanted to come to Bishkek on Thursday to address his supporters, but the authorities barred him from getting to the capital. He held talks with the Kyrgyz police chief in the Kant region east of the capital.

Baryktabasov’s supporters angrily demanded that authorities let them and their leader into the capital. “He should be president, he is an honest Kyrgyz man,” said one protester, Erlan Churayev.

Baryktabasov attempted to run for president in a 2005 election, but was denied registration. He faced criminal charges after his supporters briefly seized the government headquarters. He fled abroad and returned after Bakiyev’s ouster.

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