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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Uzbek blast trial hears evidence
By Monica Whitlock
BBC correspondent in Tashkent

Image from Russian TV channel NTV shows the blast site at the marketplace in Tashkent, 29 March 2004
The attacks were the country's first suicide bombings
A court in Uzbekistan has been hearing evidence at the trial of 15 suspects allegedly involved in a series of suicide bombings and attacks.

The judge said that a total of six Uzbeks blew themselves up during three days of violence in March which killed more than 40 people.

It was the first time violence of this sort had hit Uzbekistan. The accused allegedly belonged to a radical Islamic group, which the authorities say had al-Qaeda links.

The court was aghast to see photographs of two young women and four men, who, it seems, blew themselves up in Tashkent, two near a bazaar and the rest in a house, cornered by a police chase.

Suicide belts

The 15 defendants, who sat silently in cages, are accused of a range of crimes.

A woman in her 40s said she had sewn 50 suicide belts.

Some of the men testified to training in Waziristan, in the Pakistani borderlands near Afghanistan.

The evidence put forward is dense and at times hard to follow, but the picture emerging seems to be that the Uzbek group was planning a much wider series of attacks, possibly at foreign embassies and international hotels.

This plan apparently stalled, leaving a handful of militants to hit an assortment of targets, mainly policemen.

The trial began in July, but was adjourned after three more suicide bombers blew themselves up at the US and Israeli embassies and the procurator's office.

According to the prosecution, one of those involved was a Kazakh national, heavily involved in the Uzbek radical Islamic movement.

The violence in Uzbekistan has been brewing for many years. Many people here blame political stagnation, coupled with the government's ferocious purges against Islamic groups of every sort.

The government blames world politics.

It says Uzbekistan is a victim of what it calls global terrorism.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Monica Whitlock
"This trial is just the beginning "



SEE ALSO:
Uzbek blast trial restarts
17 Aug 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Arrests follow Uzbekistan blasts
31 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Uzbek trials seek answers to violence
27 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Al-Qaeda 'linked to Uzbek unrest'
01 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Causes of Uzbek unrest
31 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Uzbekistan
20 Jul 04  |  Country profiles


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