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Uzbek Opposition Leader: Gov’t Killed 745

May 17, 2005

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) _ An Uzbek opposition leader said Tuesday that her party had compiled a list of 745 people allegedly killed by government troops in Uzbekistan.

Nigara Khidoyatova, the head of the Free Peasants party, said that 542 people had been killed in Andijan and 203 people in Pakhtabad, another city in the Fergana Valley. Khidoyatova said her party had arrived at the figure by speaking to relatives of those killed and that the count was continuing.

``Soldiers were roaming the streets and shooting at innocent civilians,″ Khidoyatova told The Associated Press. ``Many victims were shot in the back of the head.″

Khidoyatova said her party’s representatives had talked to victims’ relatives and attended victims’ funerals.

``The count hasn’t yet finished, and the death toll will rise,″ she said.

The crackdown in Andijan came Friday after protesters stormed a prison, freed inmates and then seized local government offices. But many of the demonstrators were citizens complaining about poverty and unemployment.

Karimov’s government has denied firing on demonstrators and blamed the violence on Islamic militants. However, an AP reporter and other journalists witnessed troops opening fire on the crowd at Andijan’s central square.

``Relatives of the victims are in shock, and they can’t understand why their close ones were killed,″ Khidoyatova told The AP. ``Once the funerals are over, they aren’t going to let it go unpunished and will take revenge. They are boiling with anger.″

In one example, Khidoyatova said that her party’s members had attended the funeral of Sardor Khasanov, an 18-year old resident of Andijan who walked out to buy a loaf of bread and was killed with a bullet to the back of his head.

In Pakhtabad, virtually all the victims were women and children apparently trying to flee violence by escaping into neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Khidoyatova said. ``They were refugees trying to escape.″

Khidoyatova said that explosions of anger following the massacre will soon spread to other cities in the volatile, densely-populated Fergana Valley and eventually topple Karimov’s government.

``It’s the beginning of the end of Karimov’s regime,″ she said.

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