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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 01:37 GMT 02:37 UK
Kyrgyz police hold 'Andijan six'
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Kyrgyzstan

File photograph of some victims of Andijan uprising in Uzbekistan in May 2005
There are starkly different version of the events of 13 May 2005
Police in Kyrgyzstan have arrested six people on charges of religious extremism and their links to events in the Uzbek town of Andijan in 2005.

The arrests came amid heightened security in the south after shoot-outs between police and alleged Islamists near the border with Uzbekistan.

Police say the six have confessed to roles in last year's events in Andijan, when Uzbek troops fired on protesters.

Andijan is close to Kyrgyzstan, and many survivors fled across the border.

Most of them live in hiding, afraid of the regular incursions by the Uzbek security services, and their numbers are not clear.

Uzbekistan has put pressure on its smaller and more impoverished neighbour, Kyrgyzstan, to send those people back.

There have been joint security operations and deportations over the past few months.

The authorities in both countries say it is all part of their own war on terror but western human rights groups are concerned that this label is used to silence political dissent across the region.

Deeply Islamic

Uzbek President Islam Karimov said he was fighting Islamic terrorism when his troops opened fire on demonstrators in Andijan.

The United Nations has called the biggest massacre of innocent civilians since events in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Observers say that since then the Uzbek authorities have jailed dozens, if not hundreds of people on charges of Islamic extremism.

The border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan stretches along central Asia's deeply Islamic Ferghana Valley, but in a region where investigations and trials are almost never transparent the extent of the Islamic threat has become nearly impossible to measure.

To strangers at least, people in the Ferghana say their faith is not political.

Many survivors of Andijan say they were asking for freedom, not an Islamic state, during last year's demonstrations.


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