As we reported yesterday, Kyrgyz authorities have said that two violent incidents this week were the work of Islamic militants. But authorities quickly arrived at this conclusion, without providing evidence, after presenting some odd accounts of the November 29 shootout in Osh and the November 30 bomb explosion in Bishkek. For the record:
The government’s claims elicit many questions. If a “separatist” group consisting of ethnic Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Russians was responsible for the Osh incident, what goal does this group pursue? Does it seek to carve out a chunk of Kyrgyz territory to create a Kyrgyz-Russian-Uzbek enclave in the (heavily enclaved) Ferghana Valley?
Kyrgyz security services have a long history of linking various events to Islamic militants without providing credible and consistent information. For example, in August 2006 troops from the SNB killed Muhammadrafiq Kamalov, a popular imam in the southern town of Kara-Suu. Officials claimed at the time that Kamalov was killed because he belonged to the IMU. When Kamalov’s death provoked a protest, authorities quickly changed the version of events and claimed that Kamalov was not a terrorist and that he died in a shootout between the security services and the IMU, which allegedly held him hostage.
Some point to evident local tensions behind the November 29 Osh violence. Ferghana.ru suggested that events were provoked by a property dispute. Uzbek residents of the district where the shoot out occurred – Majrimtal – have long been at odds with Osh authorities.
A few months before the outbreak of this summer’s ethnic violence, Osh’s notorious mayor Melisbek Myrzakmatov reportedly advocated redevelopment plans in Majrimtal and other mainly Uzbek-populated districts of Osh. Many accounts say the city’s interethnic violence in June included clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz security services in Majrimtal.
So was this just a mopping-up operation? We'll probably never know, when evidence (and credibility) is in such short supply.