On February 176 six powerful explosions took place in Uzbek capital Tashkent, near the administrative buildings. As a result 15 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. Terrorist actions are associated with an attempt to murder President Islam Karimov.
Uzbekistan has been outstanding by its stability and predictability. President Karimov, who spoke over the TV on February 16, could not hide his agitation. According to him, the terrorist action was committed by religious extremist organizations. On February 18 the message of the Uzbek Moslem Department to all Moslems of the republic was announced in Tashkent. The document stressed that while “the state respects the believers and the human rights very much, we, the believers, should unanimously answer this by perfect observance of our laws, and by support of the just and peaceful policy.” Representatives of the department pointed out with sorrow that recently “appeared the people, who use our clean religion for their dirty purposes: these are different reaction movements, extremists, acting under disguise of religion and fundamentalists, which come to us from abroad. For the sake of achievement of their dirty goals they influence our people, and first of all the youth, by different methods”.
On February 22 republican General Prosecutor’s Office reported that the photos of the persons, suspected of the crime committing were already published. In particular, these are two citizens of Tajikistan Nurali Boev, 32, captain of Tajik Interior Forces, and Rustam Ziev, 28, resident of Dushanbe, member of the international thaekwondo federation; citizen of Kazakhstan, ethnic German, Timur Iskhakov, 25; citizen of Uzbekistan, Ethnic Tajik, Usman Rosikov, 31. Photos of the citizens of Uzbekistan, originating from Fergana Valley, Babadzhanovs and Tashkent resident Zikerzhon Khasanov, 31, are shown on Uzbek television every day. The photos of the suspects, composed through descriptions of witnesses, are also published. In addition, the Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s Office announced the search for blue GAZ-21 car, which was used for the movement of the criminal group, which participated in the terrorist actions on February 16 in Tashkent.
law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan reported that there would be no comments yet on events of February 16 in the interests of investigation.
The whole border of Uzbekistan with the neighboring republics was taken under special control. The borders with Chimkent region (Kazakhstan), Kirgizia and Fergana Valley are controlled most thoroughly.
Kirgizia disliked the fact that Uzbekistan sealed off Fergana Valley. Adakham Madumarov, chairperson of the social policy and mass media committee, announced in the Kirgiz parliament: “As soon as some events start happening in Uzbekistan, the authorities of this republic at once close the border with the Southern Kirgizia.” Tens of thousands of residents of Osh and Djalalabad regions of Kirgizia can not trip from one region to another, because some 10 km of the only highway, which connects these regions, cross the territory of Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan is also concerned about the situation in Uzbekistan. Special staff of the law enforcement agencies was formed and 19 additional checkpoints were opened to tighten control on the Kazakh border (South-Kazakhstan region).
Public relations service of the Interior Ministry department of Southern-Kazakhstan region explained that formation of a special staff is necessary for a more thorough control over all transport vehicles, coming to the republic, and for prevention of the weapons and drugs smuggling to Kazakhstan. In addition, special Interior Forces detachment 35 men strong was moved to the border, which will start operating “in case of appearance of unexpected events.”
Speaking about the terrorist actions in the republic, Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov announced: “We know very well who stands behind them and who controlled these crimes.”
In the article, published in the republican newspaper Khalksuzi, he pointed out that different extremist and religious movements recently started active operations in the republic. One of them is vahhabiyah and its hizbut tahrir wing. Along with the latter its paramilitary formations hizbiloh are developed. Extremists organize the groups, each of which includes five young men. Every group has its own commander. The minister reminded that in 1997-1998 some officials in Namangan, Fergana and Andizhan (in Fergana Valley) were killed by the extremists.
The minister criticized the work of the law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan, in particular, activity of the territorial inspectors.
meanwhile, analysis of the available information says that:
1) The persons, suspected and searched for in Uzbekistan can hardly be called religious fanatics. Their group is international by its composition.
2) We can point out a high professionalism of the terrorists and good material provision of the explosions organization. High power of explosions says that it was plastid (a kind of powerful plastic explosive,- translator’s note), which was most likely used as the explosive. Bearing in mind the isolation of Uzbekistan, it is difficult to believe that it was delivered to Tashkent from outside.
3) We can assume that the terrorists themselves were not fanatics, and that religious extremist organizations simply hired them. We can also suppose that the explosions in Tashkent were organized by some other forces, which wish destabilization in the republic.
Such destabilization really takes place. The following fact demonstrates that the situation in the republic is seriously unstable: on February 18 the US Department of State warned American citizens about the desirable avoiding of trips to the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, without the extreme necessity. The statement of the Department of State says: “Although it seems that Americans were not the target of the explosions, the US embassy in Tashkent calls American citizens not to visit this city without the necessity and avoid visiting of places, where the explosions took place.”