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Saturday, September 4, 1999 Published at 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Kyrgyz forces root out rebels

Government troops are still trying to flush out 400 rebels

The Kyrgyzstan Government says its troops have launched an offensive against rebels who crossed into its territory from Tajikistan two weeks ago.


The BBC's Louise Hidalgo on the Kyrgyz struggle against the rebels
Presidential security adviser Bolot Dzhanuzakov said a group of more than 100 gunmen had been driven out of the Chon-Alai region and back into Tajikistan.

There was no independent confirmation of whether the Chon-Alai region had been fully cleared of the gunmen, or on any casualties.

Kyrgyz forces were reported to have launched their offensive on Saturday morning on the Bok-Bash crossing.

Mr Dzhanuzakov said that further west in the Batken region, rebels had left the villages of Zardaly and Korgon and moved up into the mountains.

Click here for a map of the area

"The situation is gradually turning into one where we have fully dealt with the fighters," he said.

However some 400 rebels remain in Kyrgyzstan, along with 13 hostages - including four Japanese geologists.

The rebels, from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, have demanded safe passage from southern Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, against which they have announced a "holy war".


[ image: The Kyrgyz military is having to scour often inhospitable terrain]
The Kyrgyz military is having to scour often inhospitable terrain
The gunmen said the hostages would only be freed if Uzbekistan released thousands of political prisoners from its jails.

"From now on they and future hostages will be freed only when around 50,000 Muslims, thrown behind bars in camps in Uzbekistan, are released," a rebel statement said.

The guerrillas crossed into Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan a fortnight ago - kidnapping the Japanese scientists and several locals and engaging in sporadic battles with Kyrgyz forces.

The rebels say their fight is not with the local Kyrgyz people, although thousands have fled the area.

Mr Dzhanuzakov said Kyrgyzstan would not submit to the demands of the gunmen, whom he branded "international terrorists".

"No-one ... has the right to make threats, demands," he said.

"Terrorists are criminals. The Kyrgyz Government will never submit to the ultimatums and demands of these bandits," the presidential adviser warned.




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