Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 16:43 UK

Chaos and uncertainty reign in Bishkek

People walk past destroyed supermarket in Bishkek
Many people are walking through the streets of the capital in disbelief

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC News, Bishkek

"We have been here since early this morning. We helped to push the looters outside," says 40-year-old Ekmat, pointing at young men sweeping the stairs of the presidential administration building in Bishkek.

They are members of a so-called "public squad" set up to help restore order in Kyrgyzstan's capital a day after clashes between police and anti-government protesters left more than 70 people dead.

Wearing white armbands, they have been sweeping up broken glass, computers and pieces of furniture into a huge pile on the streets.

"Yesterday, people were here to free the country from President Bakiyev's family. We want peace and fair rule in our country. We will clean up the place and hand it over to the new authorities," Ekmat adds.

I am ashamed for my country, look what these looters have done
Shop assistant

Less than 24 hours ago, the presidential administration building was home to the government of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who himself came to power following mass opposition demonstrations five years ago.

It is from the roof of the building - known locally as the White House - that the security forces opened fire against thousands of protesters on Wednesday.

A sign is still hanging on its front gate which reads: "High security area. Trespassers will be shot."

Hundreds of people gathered in the city's central square on Thursday morning, eager to hear from the opposition what to do next. But no-one ever came.

'Repression and tyranny'

Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, later told a news conference that parliament had been dissolved, and that an interim government - which would remain in power until elections are held in six months - was fully in control of the country and had appointed new ministers.

She urged Mr Bakiyev to resign, saying: "His business here is over."

March 2005: Protests over disputed parliamentary election, dubbed the Tulip Revolution, lead to fall of President Askar Akayev; Kurmanbek Bakiyev appointed acting president and PM
July 2005: Mr Bakiyev elected president by a landslide
May 2006: Mass protests demand constitutional reform and more action to combat corruption
October 2007: Referendum approves constitutional changes, which the opposition present as a step towards authoritarianism
December 2007: Mr Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party wins parliamentary poll; opposition left with no seats
July 2009: Mr Bakiyev re-elected in vote criticised by monitors
January 2010: Opposition leader Ismail Isakov jailed for eight years for corruption, sparking opposition hunger strikes
April 2010: Clashes between police and anti-government protesters leave 65 dead

She added: "What we did yesterday was our answer to the repression and tyranny against the people by the Bakiyev regime.

"You can call this revolution. You can call this a people's revolt. Either way, it is our way of saying that we want justice and democracy."

Another opposition politician, Ismail Isakov, whose imprisonment in January triggered a wave of protests, has been freed and named interim defence minister.

Mr Isakov said police patrols would be set up to stop further looting.

Meanwhile, supporters of President Bakiyev, who has fled the capital, have been gathering in the southern city of Jalalabad.

A great deal of public anger has been recently directed towards Mr Bakiyev and his relatives, who many suspected of trying to establish a dynasty.

The president's brother, Janish, was an influential security official, while his youngest son, Maxim, was the head of a key government agency.


With the exception of riot police who clashed with protesters near the offices of Mr Bakiyev on Wednesday, the police presence has been almost non-existent in Bishkek over the past two days.

A man holds a Kyrgyz flag near the "White House" in Bishkek
The situation remains tense in the capital, Bishkek

In a small cafe, away from the city centre, I found a group of policemen in their uniforms chatting and smoking cigarettes.

"We had no orders to act," one officer said.

Most of the policemen even appeared to sympathise with the protesters.

"Look at those young men who got killed - they had no jobs, they were pushing carts for 4-5 soms (13 pence) in the bazaars. That's why they went under the bullets, those poor young men," another officer said.

After two days of mass protests, a night of widespread looting and constant gunfire, there is sense of chaos and uncertainty in Bishkek.

Many are walking through the streets in disbelief, taking photographs of the hundreds of badly damaged buildings and burnt-out vehicles.

"I feel disappointed," said a sales assistant standing behind empty counters inside a jewellery store at the Vefa shopping centre.

"I am ashamed for my country, look what these looters have done."

Shopkeepers at the centre turned up at work on Thursday morning to find only piles of broken glass and empty shelves. An owner of a mobile phone store angrily kicked the floor of his empty shop.

Another shopkeeper collected odd pairs of shoes scattered all around.

"I am in shock. There is nothing else to say," he said.

Map of Kyrgysztan with key locations
Bishkek: Opposition claim to have control. Protesters still surround government HQ (aka the White House) which has been ransacked and part of it set on fire. Reports of looting in the city.
Osh: President Bakiyev has a support base in the country's second city and is believed to be in the region.
Naryn: Second day of unrest. New opposition governor installed.
Talas: Uprising began here on 6 April. Interior minister beaten up by protesters on 7 April who stormed police HQ and installed new governor.
Border with Kazakhstan is closed.
Flights suspended from US military base in Manas.

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