Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Uzbekistan is charging that terrorists responsible for a bloody five days of bombings and attacks in the spring were trained at camps in southern Kazakhstan, triggering a denial from Kazakh national-security officials.

The accusations surfaced this week as 15 suspected terrorists — 13 men and two women — went on trial in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

The defendants, ranging in age from 22 to 40 years of age, face accusations of terrorism, the attempted overthrow of Uzbekistan’s government, religious extremism and other crimes, according to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service.

All of the defendants pleaded guilty to the 17 charges against them at the opening of the trial on Monday, but human rights activists say torture was used to extract the pleas.

Uzbek Deputy Prosecutor Murod Solihov told the court that the accused trained at camps in Kazakhstan’s border regions. He also said some them traveled from there to Azerbaijan, Iran and Pakistan’s Waziristan province to undergo instruction in bomb-making and weapons use.

The official death toll in the late March-early April series of explosions and clashes with police was 47 dead — 33 terrorists, 10 policemen and four civilians.

“This assertion by the state prosecution of Uzbekistan does not correspond to reality,” Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee said.

The committee also said that Kazakh Interior Ministry officials cooperated with Uzbek National Security investigators after the terrorist attacks and that information provided by Uzbek police regarding training camps in Kazakhstan could not be confirmed.

Kazakhstan’s chairman of the National Security Committee told The Washington Times in Almaty last month that some of the suspected Uzbek terrorists had relatives in Kazakhstan and that some of the suspects had been migrant laborers there.

“We are working with Uzbek authorities to find out who were their supporters in Kazakhstan. We are trying to find out if they have their roots in Kazakhstan,” said Lt. Gen. Nartay Dutbayev.

“Persons linked to terrorism use our territory as a refuge. It’s not a big flow of people, but since 1999, with the assistance of our partners in Uzbekistan, we have found evidence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Kazakhstan,” he said.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and has been blamed for car bombings that left 16 dead in Tashkent in 1999.

“Violence is a permanent threat in Kazakhstan. We know that al Qaeda is looking for places where they can attack American citizens, and in Kazakhstan, we have many such places,” Gen. Dutbayev said.

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