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Hostages Released in Kyrgyzstan

September 3, 1999

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) _ Six Uzbek climbing guides have been freed after 10 days of captivity in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, but militants there still hold several hostages, officials said today.

The guides were freed when a Kyrgyz military unit attacked the militants’ base Tuesday, said Vladimir Dolgy, a spokesman for the guides’ employer, Uzbekistan’s Asia Travel agency.

They appeared to be in good health, Dolgy said. They were taken to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to be questioned by police.

The guides had been captured by about 30 militants on Aug. 21 while touring mountains in southern Kyrgyzstan, a mile from the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, Dolgy said. The Asian region lies south of Russia and west of China.

The guides were robbed of their tents, equipment, photo cameras and warm clothes before being taken to the militants’ base just inside Kyrgyzstan, Dolgy said.

It was not known if the kidnappers in that case were connected to militants holed up in five remote mountainous villages in southern Kyrgyzstan. Those militants invaded 12 days ago from neighboring Tajikistan and took 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists.

The militants from Tajikistan have not said what they’re trying to achieve. Federal troops have traded gunfire with them, but the sides appear no closer to ending the standoff.

Also today, a deputy of the Kyrgyz parliament urged the government to talk to Russia about the possibility of setting up Russian military bases in southern Kyrgyzstan, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Russia has military bases and troops in several ex-Soviet states. It has promised to provide weapons that Kyrgyzstan had requested to fight the rebels.

Update hourly