- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Supporters of a presidential hopeful who was denied registration stormed government headquarters yesterday and clashed with police, injuring 39 persons in the largest disturbance since the March uprising that ousted the leader of the former Soviet republic.

Police and Interior Ministry troops firing tear gas regained control of the building an hour after the crowd of about 2,000 forced its way through a gate.

Up to 100 Interior Ministry troops carrying riot shields and truncheons sealed off the building after driving out the protesters. They then advanced on the crowd outside, beating their shields and causing protesters to break and run.

The protesters said they were supporters of Urmat Baryktabasov, a candidate who was denied registration in next month’s presidential election, but interim President Kurmanbek Bakiyev pinned the blame on backers of former President Askar Akayev.

The Health Ministry said 39 persons were injured, 12 of them hospitalized. Mr. Bakiyev said 10 security troops were injured by stones.

Election officials say Mr. Baryktabasov was denied registration because he is a citizen of Kazakhstan.

The July 10 election was called to replace Mr. Akayev. Seven candidates have been registered, including Mr. Bakiyev, who is the front-runner.

Farida Mambetakunova, 35, from Mr. Baryktabasov’s home region of Issyk-Kul in northeastern Kyrgyzstan, on the border with Kazakhstan, earlier stood on a flight of steps inside the government headquarters and vowed to fight on.

“Our goal is to elect him as our president. We will wait here until he is given a mandate to run in the race. We won’t leave until then,” she said.

“He gave us jobs and money,” she said. “Bakiyev hasn’t done anything since coming to power.”

Tuigunali Abdraimov, chairman of Central Election Commission, showed reporters Kazakh government documents saying Mr. Baryktabasov had received Kazakh citizenship in August 2003.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Baryktabasov’s political party, Bermet Turduniyazova, said neither he nor the party was involved in the storming.

The unrest underscored the high tensions in Kyrgyzstan less than a month before the vote.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the campaign, called on all sides in Kyrgyzstan to respect the rule of law.

Violence broke out Monday in the southern city of Osh, when security guards opened fire on market traders demanding fair market prices. Seven persons were injured, two seriously.

Last week, a lawmaker who owned the biggest car market in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, was shot and killed. Authorities on Tuesday announced a $25,000 reward for information to help to solve the slaying.

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