Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has declared a state of emergency in Kyrgyzstan following an April 7 clash between police and protesters outside the government headquarters in Bishkek that left four dead.
In a declaration reported by Russian-language news agencies, members of parliament called on residents of Kyrgyzstan to "not permit illegal actions emabling a further negative development of events . . . there is not and can be no alternative to peace and accord."
The struggle started after hundreds of opposition protesters on the morning of April 7 took over two police armored vehicles with assorted weapons after the arrest of opposition demonstrators and headed to the White House, as Kyrgyzstan's central government compound is called.
Rounds of what appeared to be live ammunition could be heard earlier in the afternoon from several blocks away, a EurasiaNet.org correspondent in Bishkek reported by phone. By late afternoon, the gunfire appeared to have subsided, although reports continue about gunshots fired in the vicinity of the central square outside the White House.
A source at Bishkek's central hospital confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that four people had been killed in the struggle for control over the White House.
Ferghana.ru reported that some 100 people have been hospitalized; 27 are severely wounded. It estimated the number of protesters at 10,000.
Hundreds of protesters began to gather after police began arresting a peaceful group of protesters outside the opposition Social Democratic Party headquarters on the morning of April 7, a EurasiaNet.org correspondent reported.
Special forces members, some taking up refuge in a nearby building, others badly beaten, lost control over the demonstrators, who seized weapons from fleeing police, including a bazooka and AK-47 rifles.
The arrests started after the departure of German Ambassador Holger Green and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission head Ambassador Andrew Tesoriere from the building. A representative of the US embassy was also present.
Signs are emerging that the protest movement continues apace in other parts of Kyrgyzstan. To the southeast of Bishkek, protesters have reportedly taken control of the district government building in Naryn. A source on the scene told EurasiaNet.org that police did not put up a fight; protesters looted the building and announced a new governor. A struggle ensued for control of Naryn's militia building, but the outcome was unclear. By 2:30pm central time, a celebration with music was reportedly being held in Naryn's central square.
The violence follows opposition protesters' April 6 takeover of a government building in the provincial town Talas [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive]; police were reported to have taken control of the building, but eyewitness reports from the scene on Twitter later stated that protesters had regained control of the building. The report could not be verified.
Minister of Internal Affairs Moldomusa Kongantiev stated at a press conference that an opposition leader named as the organizer of the Talas demonstration, Bolot Sherniyazov, has been arrested and will "be delivered to Bishkek," 24.kg reported. The organization "of riots is qualified as a crime. And Bolot Sherniyazov will be punished with all severity," Kongantiev was reported as saying.
Other opposition figures have also been arrested, although information about their status has become scarce in the commotion surrounding the White House clash. Social-Democratic Party head Almazbek Atambayev, a former prime minister, was arrested late on April 6. Opposition leader Tekebar Sariyev was detained after flying into Bishkek from Moscow on April 7, Russian news sites reported.
Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan appears to have fallen under a near information blackout; Internet access is intermittent and phone lines jammed. Local television channels are reportedly not broadcasting.