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Kyrgyzstan Denies Hostage Release

October 17, 1999

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ The president of Kyrgyzstan has denied a report that four Japanese geologists taken hostage in August have been released, Russian news agencies reported Sunday.

The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies reported Saturday night that the geologists and a senior Kyrgyz military officer had been released. Their reports were picked up by The Associated Press.

But on Sunday, President Askar Akayev said talks on freeing the hostages were still underway, the news agencies reported.

The four Japanese, along with the military officer and eight others, were seized by Tajik militants who invaded Kyrgyzstan in August. The aims of the militants were never clear, but Kyrgyzstan officials said the fighters want to establish an Islamic state on territory now belonging to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Four of the hostages were released earlier this week. Akayev said he hoped the remaining hostages would be freed within the next several days, Interfax reported.

The news agencies had cited unidentified government sources when they reported the hostage release Saturday. Neither agency said Sunday why those sources were apparently not correct.

Update hourly