Riot Erupts in Uzbek Town After Soccer Game Canceled
MOSCOW (AP) _ Soccer fans angered by cancellation of a game looted and set fire to scores of buildings in a city in Uzbekistan during rioting that injured at least 44 people, news reports said Friday.
The fans, many intoxicated, ran wild through the city of Andizhan in the Fergana Valley of eastern Uzbekistan on Wednesday. The Andizhan region, with a population of 1.6 million, is plagued by severe unemployment. Jobless number 80,000.
Last summer, more than 100 people were killed in ethnic rioting between Uzbeks and another Turkish ethnic group, the Meskhetians, in the nearby city of Fergana.
In the latest violence, rioters attacked the Andizhan regional Communist Party headquarters and the city prosecutor’s office, as well as 125 other buildings, 79 stores and 36 homes, the official Tass news agency reported.
An official at the party headquarters, reached by telephone, said it was too noisy to hear the caller because the walls and windows were missing. He refused to say anything more.
The mob set fire to 13 stores, 46 workshops and dozens of homes, and destroyed 18 institutions, including libraries, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda said. Interior Ministry troops restored order.
The violence began when 10,000 fans waiting in afternoon heat were told a team from Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, had failed to show up for the game, Pravda said.
The crowd began throwing rocks and beat up the chairman of the local soccer club, the newspaper said. Fans set fire to two police cars and to a car that was to have been given away in a drawing at the game, Pravda said.
The injured included 13 Interior Ministry troops, 10 police officers and 11 civilians, Tass said. Pravda put the injury toll at 44.
The independent news service Post Factum said the mob killed the stadium director and burned the stadium to the ground.
However, Pravda and a spokesman for the republic’s legislature, Eduard Tsoy, said there were no deaths. Tsoy also denied the stadium was destroyed.
Armed with automatic weapons, the crowd rampaged through neighborhoods of Russians, Armenians and Jews, leaving the Armenian quarter smoldering, Post Factum said.
The news service also quoted an unnamed member of the out-of-town team as saying the game was canceled because riots were planned for Andizhan that day.
The reports could not be confirmed immediately because communications with Andizhan were cut.
Akilov Said-Ali of the grass-roots political group Berlik in Tashkent said that Berlik members at the stadium tried to prevent violence by standing between the fans and the police. He said many of them were injured and that the local Berlik leader suffered two broken legs.
Said-Ali and Tsoy said Adizhan was quiet Friday.
Post Factum also said a large number of Moslems from the Fergana Valley traveled to Tashkent on Thursday to demand the retirement of the Central Asian mufti, 37-year-old Mohammadsadyk Mamayusupov. The group blames him for the Andizhan riots, the news service said. It did not elaborate.
Said-Ali said the mufti met with representatives from Andizhan and other cities Thursday and set up a commission to look into their complaints. But he did not know any details.
Mamayusupov was named mufti last year after his predecessor was accused of failing to lead a religious life.
Mamayusupov moved quickly to win government approval for the opening of new mosques. Last year, there were only 200 mosques sprinkled across the five Central Asian republics. The republics - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Turkmenia and Tadzhikistan - occupy an area half the size of the continental United States.