Kyrgyzstan Protest Explodes into Violence
After nine days of protest, anti-government demonstrations erupted in violence. The various factions are point ting the finger at one another as the current president maintians power.
Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek erupted in violence on April 19, as security troops used force to disperse anti-government protesters from the area surrounding the presidential palace. The sudden turn of events appeared to leave President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in command of the country’s political system, breaking a long-standing constitutional deadlock.
The confrontation came on the ninth day of a protest mounted by Bakiyev opponents, who had been seeking constitutional changes to reduce his presidential authority. Riot police moved to disperse the opposition’s protest camp, set up in central Ala-Too Square, after thousands of demonstrators advanced to the gates of the presidential compound roughly 100 yards away, shouting for Bakiyev’s resignation.
Some protesters reportedly threw rocks and other projectiles at riot police guarding the presidential administration building, known locally as the White House. Security forces responded with tear-gas and stun grenades, then charged the protesters, dispersing them. Several shops and cafes around Ala-Too Square suffered significant damage amid the efforts to clear the area of protesters. The eastern portion of the square was littered with rocks, shattered glass and other debris.
Interior Minister Bolotbek Nogoibayev, according to a report distributed by the AKIpress news agency, said four riot police officers had sustained injuries during the confrontation, adding that roughly 100 protesters had been taken into custody. There were no immediate reports on injuries suffered by anti-government protesters.
By the early hours of April 20, few traces remained of the opposition protest camp. Hundreds of riot police were stationed at key intersections in the center of the city, regulating access to the square. Trucks stood by, waiting to cart off the remaining tents and equipment that had been used by the opposition protesters.
The suddenness of the security troops’ action took some witnesses by surprise. One shop owner said the area seemed to suddenly become engulfed in tear gas. "We were trying to protect our property, but went upstairs to hide when the crowds came."