Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 16:03 UK

Kyrgyzstan holds funeral ceremonies for protest victims

Mourners hold pictures and the names of the 15 victims being buried at the meorial site in Kyrgyzstan
Thousands of mourners attended Saturday's funerals

Funeral ceremonies have been held in Kyrgyzstan for some of at least 78 people killed during a violent uprising that ousted the president.

Thousands of mourners watched as 15 coffins draped in the national flag were carried through the burial ground outside the capital, Bishkek.

Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva said those killed were heroes.

Meanwhile, the US has suspended all troop flights to Afghanistan from Kyrgyzstan amid continuing tension.

In the early hours of Saturday, hundreds of cars drove to a memorial site some 20km (12 miles) outside Bishkek for the funerals of 15 of those who died during last week's violence.


Other victims were being buried at private family funerals.

The memorial site was the scene of a massacre by Soviet forces in the 1930s of Kyrgyz noblemen.

Solemn music played as families and friends laid name plates and pictures of the victims.

The funerals marked the second day of mourning in the country, where calm appears to have largely returned.

The mourners were convinced that the dead had given their lives for a good cause.

"The people died for freedom, people do not like to live in the way it was in the past," said one mourner, Getykhan Abaskhanov.

"How much longer must we wait? People simply want to live like normal human beings, not like dogs."


Tension, however, remains high. The US military in Kyrgyzstan announced that all troop flights to Afghanistan from Kyrgyzstan were being suspended indefinitely.

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

Meanwhile, the US would transport 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.

Ms Otunbayeva, the former foreign minister, told the BBC's Kyrgyz service that her interim government would keep to its international commitments.

"We'll work in the same regime, the same manner which the work has been done," she said.

And she also denied accusations that Moscow had backed the uprising to oust President Kurmanbek Bakiyev - seen by some as being pro-US.

The violence was the culmination of weeks of discontent over rising prices and allegations of corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

Clashes in the capital, Bishkek, and other towns left at least 78 dead and more than 1,600 injured.

Mr 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.

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