New Kyrgyz rulers struggle to impose authority

Kyrgyzstan Materials 17 April 2010 20:44 (UTC +04:00)
Supporters of ousted Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev seized regional television and administration headquarters on Saturday as the new authorities struggled to impose their authority
New Kyrgyz rulers struggle to impose authority

Supporters of ousted Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev seized regional television and administration headquarters on Saturday as the new authorities struggled to impose their authority, AFP reported.

With the country still on edge over a week after the protests that toppled Bakiyev and sent him into exile, uncertainty was also growing over the whereabouts of the ousted president.

Bakiyev dramatically flew out of Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan late Thursday, with world powers and the new authorities hoping his exit would restore stability after 84 were killed in protests that ended his rule.

But demonstrators loyal to Bakiyev in the southern city of Jalalabad -- where many of his supporters are concentrated -- staged a 1,000 strong protest and then seized the regional administration building and television station, reports said.

The group of supporters broke into the office of the station's director Batykan Azhymamatovy and demanded to be given air time to make a statement which they then recorded, reported Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz station of US-funded Radio Free Europe.

Dozens of protesters then entered the regional administration building, briefly taking hostage the regional governor Bekut Asanov. After an hour he was allowed to go but the protesters remained in the building, Azattyk said.

The interior minister of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, Bolotbek Sherniyazov, was also beaten in the unrest.

He finally managed to flee to his jeep and leave the scene as the protesters hurled bottles at his car, the report said.

But the chief of staff for Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Roza Otunbayeva, Edil Baisalov, told Russian radio that the new authorities had the situation under control and were refraining from using force.

"The situation is under control, the interim government is refusing to use force on Bakiyev's supporters and we intend to look at such demonstrations with patience," he told Moscow Echo radio.

Uncertainty is growing over the whereabouts of Bakiyev, with some reports saying he has already moved on from Kazakhstan. Bakiyev has spent the last days in the southern Kazakhstan city of Taraz.

"Bakiyev has left Kazakhstan. He is no longer on the territory of the country," an informed source told the Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency, saying it was not clear where he was now.

Another source also told the agency that Bakiyev had flown out of Taraz late on Friday for an unknown destination. Kazakh officials could not be reached for comment.

Earlier reports had said that Bakiyev was due to arrive in the ex-Soviet state of Belarus, whose President Alexander Lukashenko had last week offered him asylum. But Belarussian officials denied he would be coming.

There has also been speculation in the Russian media that Bakiyev could be seeking to head to Turkey.

The interim government of Kyrgyzstan have said they will seek to bring him to justice wherever he goes.

"Wherever Kurmanbek Bakiyev goes, the international community must see him as a criminal," the deputy head of the interim government Azimbek Beknazarov told reporters in Bishkek.

Bakiyev came to power in a popular uprising known as the Tulip Revolution in 2005, but in recent years he came under increasing criticism for authoritarianism and corruption.

The government has also launched operations to arrest close family members and allies of Bakiyev, but so far appears only to have netted Baktybek Kaliyev, the former defence minister.

An operation to arrest his brother and former top regime figure Zhanysh Bakiyev ended in apparent failure when he slipped out of his village when it was surrounded by the security forces, officials said.

He is now the target of a major search.