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Page last updated at 03:51 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 04:51 UK

US suspends Kyrgyzstan-Afghanistan troop flights

US military planes at Manas military base, Kyrgyzstan, file pic from 2009
Analysts say the base at Manas is crucial to US operations in Afghanistan

The US has suspended all troop flights to Afghanistan from Kyrgyzstan, where tensions remain after a violent uprising against the president.

No reason was given for the indefinite suspension of troop flights from the Manas airbase - a decision taken by the US military in Kyrgyzstan.

The Manas airbase is a key transport hub for US-led operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Funerals are to take place later of some 75 people killed in the uprising.

BBC's Richard Galpin: Bakiyev "insists he's still president"

The first funerals were held as a day of mourning for those killed was observed on Friday, with thousands of mourners gathering to lay flowers in the main square of the capital Bishkek.

More than 1,500 are also believed to have been injured in the violence.

Kyrgyzstan is now in the hands of an interim government led by former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva.

Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said that although he still regarded himself as the legitimately elected president, with widespread support, he feared he would be killed if he returned to the capital, Bishkek.

Speaking from a secret location in the southern city of Jalalabad, he told the BBC that armed opposition supporters had targeted his office during Wednesday's uprising, and were still trying to track him down.

'Crucial' base

US Central Command spokesman Maj John Redfield told the BBC that troop flights from the base just outside Bishkek would resume once conditions in Kyrgyzstan allow.

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Meanwhile, the US would transport all forces to Afghanistan via Kuwait, he said.

The US base is crucial to US operations in Afghanistan, says the BBC's Madeleine Morris in Washington - some 50,000 coalition troops passed through in March alone - but its lease is due to expire in July.

Russia also has an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, and the presence of both has been the focus of debate in recent months.

Mr Bakiyev told the BBC the opposition wanted to close the base down.

"I think that would be wrong. It's really vital, not only for America but also for Kyrgyzstan and for the whole of Central Asia," he said.

But Ms Otunbayeva said on Friday: "We will not touch the airbase. The existing contracts will remain in place."

Foreign interference?

In his interview with the BBC from his powerbase in the country's south, Mr Bakiyev said the uprising was a well-organised, covert operation.

TIMELINE: KYRGYZSTAN UNREST
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 75 dead

He said there had been foreign involvement in the uprising, but refused to point the finger at a specific country.

Mr Bakiyev he would stay in the country to prevent civil war that could erupt because of the deep divide between the north and the south of the country.

He also poured scorn on the interim government, saying it was unable to restore law and order, while he and his ministers were continuing to work in order to stabilise the country.

Mr Bakiyev has offered to talk to the opposition but Ms Otunbayeva has said she has no plans to do so and that the president must resign.

She said Mr Bakiyev had the opportunity "to leave the country".

"We will guarantee his security, only his personal security, if he resigns," Ms Otunbayeva said.

'Incidents of violence'

On Friday, many of those mourning their loved ones blamed the deaths on Mr Bakiyev.

"Bakiyev must be tried and executed for all these crimes," said Fatima Imanaliyeva, whose two friends were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters.

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Funeral for uprising victim in Bishkek

"We will never forgive him. This is our revolution," she said.

Ms Otunbayeva has accused Mr Bakiyev's supporters of continuing to orchestrate "incidents of violence" around the capital, saying that "several bombs" had been planted in Bishkek.

Russia appears to have given its backing to Ms Otunbayeva's leadership.

She has already held telephone talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the deputy head of her interim government, Almazbek Atambayev, had gone to Moscow "for talks on economic aid".


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