Thursday, May 19, 2005
Visitors' access limited in Andijan
A group of foreign journalists and diplomats were flown (Wednesday) into Andijan to see the area affected by violence lastFriday and Saturday. Uzbek authorities wanted to show that reports of 700 civilian deaths were exaggerated. Uzbek President Islam Karimov maintains that 169 people were killed in clashes between Uzbek soldiers and, in his words, Islamic extremists.
The two-hour visit provided few answers. Several diplomats complained that they were not allowed to roam freely and were introduced only to residents who backed the official version of events.
Reuters AlertNet adds:
A Western diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told IRIN that a government-organised trip to Andijan - the scene of mass killings by Uzbek forces on Friday - had been "completely stage managed by Tashkent" in order to prevent foreigners and journalists from gaining information to support claims that more than 500 people were gunned down in and around the city's central square. "We were not allowed to talk to local people, see hospitals or morgues, or move freely around the city," the diplomat said.