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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 May 2005, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Pressure grows for Uzbek inquiry
Uzbek refugees try to return through Kyrgyz checkpoint
The Uzbek authorities say refugees can return
The US has said it is disappointed with Uzbekistan's refusal to allow an international investigation into last week's bloody events in Andijan.

Officials from the UN and other international bodies have also called for an inquiry into the events, which left hundreds dead.

Meanwhile the Red Cross urged the government to provide access to those wounded or detained during the unrest.

More rallies were held in the border town of Korasuv on Friday.

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

Townspeople gathered near the border bridge crossing into the Kyrgyz side of the divided town in the evening, demanding the release of the rebellion's leaders, who were arrested after Uzbek troops re-entered the town.

They called for the release of Bakhtior Rakhimov and his assistant, who emerged as the main leaders after local people drove government officials out of the town last week.

The protesters also called on journalists watching from the Kyrgyz side of the border to tell the world the truth of what was happening.

A large force of armed Uzbek soldiers encircled the protesters and eventually dispersed them.

This night-time protest followed an earlier demonstration during the day, when about 1,000 people gathered in front of the mayor's office.

Residents threw out their leaders last week in a popular protest, but troops took back control of the town on Thursday.

Uzbekistan has said 169 people died when soldiers put down a "bandit uprising" in Andijan on 13 May. An army source told the BBC that 500 people were killed.

The unrest in Andijan began when a group of men stormed the town's prison and freed 23 businessmen accused of being Islamic extremists. A large protest was then staged, joined by hundreds of residents as well as the freed prisoners.

Witnesses said troops fired indiscriminately at civilians in the crowd.

Signs of disquiet

President Islam Karimov ruled out an international investigation during a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Everything should be investigated up to the foremost deepest causes of uprising, where it will be found out that the roots lie in social well being, rather than in religious fanaticism
Mr Muradilla, Termez, Uzbekistan

But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington had not given up.

"We continue to press both publicly and privately for a credible and transparent assessment of the events in Andijan," Mr Boucher said.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), of which Uzbekistan is a member country, on Friday joined calls for an independent inquiry into the clashes.

A week after the violence, the Uzbek authorities say women and children who fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan can now return.

But they are still searching for the missing prisoners, and men over the age of 16 will be checked on their return.

In the capital, Tashkent, correspondents say there are signs of disquiet, with people criticising President Islam Karimov's handling of the unrest.

Uzbekistan, the most populous Central Asian country, with 26 million people, is seen as an ally in the US-led "war on terror".

The US has an airbase in the south of the country which provides logistical support to operations in Afghanistan. However, the US has announced it is scaling back operations at the airbase following the unrest.

See the troops in Uzbekistan


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