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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
US joins push for Uzbek inquiry
An Uzbek woman cries at the grave of her relative in Andijan
There are suspicions the death toll is much higher than 169
The US has joined demands for an international investigation into last week's bloody crackdown on a protest in the Uzbek town of Andijan.

The US state department said reports painted a disturbing picture and called for a credible and transparent inquiry.

Uzbek officials say 169 people died, but an army source said 500 were killed when troops opened fire on protesters.

A leader in the nearby town of Korasuv has told the BBC his region wants to form an Islamic administration.

Bakhtior Rakhimov said his town was willing to fight for its freedom.

'Address causes'

Washington has been under pressure to take a tough line against the repressive Uzbek regime, which is a key US ally in its "war on terror".

The high commissioner... urges the conduct of an independent investigation into the causes and circumstances of the incidents in eastern Uzbekistan
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan re-iterated US calls for "a more open and responsive government".

But he appealed to both sides to show restraint and avoid violence.

The unrest began when a group of men stormed the town's prison and freed 23 businessmen accused of being Islamic extremists.

These men joined a large protest, which correspondents say was also fuelled by long-term frustration over poverty and unemployment.

UZBEK TROUBLES
Most populous central Asian former Soviet republic, home to 26m people
Ruled since 1991 independence by autocrat Islam Karimov
Accused by human rights groups of serious abuses, including torture
Rocked by violence in capital Tashkent in 2004
Government says radical Islamic groups behind violence

Locals say troops then fired indiscriminately into the crowd.

The authorities say no civilians were killed, only Islamic militants who had organised the protest.

The US calls for an inquiry come after appeals earlier on Wednesday by United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour and the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Mr Straw also urged Uzbek President Islam Karimov to address "the root causes of the discontent" and "to develop a much more open and pluralistic society".

Foreign diplomats who visited Andijan on Wednesday said they were not allowed to speak to locals.

'Fighting against Karimov'

In the eastern border town of Korasuv residents seized control following the violence in the nearby town of Andijan.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What happened has reminded us of the terrible communist crackdown in Tiananmen in China
Sherzod, Uzbekistan

Mr Rakhimov, the man apparently in charge of the uprising, told the BBC's Ian MacWilliam the people in the region had put up with Mr Karimov for 16 years, and could no longer tolerate him.

Residents said the real cause of resentment is the lack of work combined with the regime's tough curbs on private trade.

"We're fighting against Karimov, against his policies. He doesn't allow us to work," Mr Rakhimov said.

He said that they wanted to establish an Islamic administration in the area, but he did not elaborate on the aspiration, or whether the town had any connections to the wider Islamic movement.





BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Footage from the Uzbek city where many lost their lives



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