Gunfire at pro-Bakiyev rally sparks concern of more violence after Kyrgyzstan coup

Bodyguards of deposed Kyrgyzstan President Bakiyev fired shots at a rally in the southern city of Osh. His refusal to leave the country since the Kyrgyzstan coup could provoke more violence.

By , Correspondent

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    Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev (c.) gestures before his intended address to supporters at a square in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh Thursday. Bodyguards of Kyrgyzstan's embattled president fired shots into the air to help President Bakiyev escape a crowd of 1,000 opponents that disrupted his rally.
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Concerns rose about more violence in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday after shots were fired at a rally where President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, deposed in a turbulent uprising last week, was addressing supporters. The rally was meant to be a show of defiance a day after Roza Otunbayeva, the leader of the interim government, declared that Mr. Bakiyev must face trial or go into exile alone.

According to the BBC, Bakiyev was speaking to a thousand-strong crowd in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, where he has most of his support, when gunfire broke out.

A rival rally of interim government supporters was being held a few hundred metres away.

Mr Bakiyev's brother told the BBC that the former leader had appeared on stage and was immediately attacked by opposition supporters, causing his bodyguards to shoot into the air.

The ex-president was quickly bundled into his car and driven the two hours back to his home village.

Although no injuries were reported, Thursday’s clashes have renewed concerns about a civil war between the country’s north and south. Al Jazeera quoted Natalia Leshchenko, a Russia analyst at the economic research group Global Insight in Britain:

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"There are very deep divisions between the more industrialised north and the more rural south.... The interim government unfortunately does not represent the whole population of Kyrgyzstan. Neither did President Bakiyev.”

A map of Kyrgyzstan is available on the National Geographic website.

The interim government on Thursday also ruled out the possibility of direct talks with Bakiyev, reports The Financial Times. There has been no contact as yet between the deposed president and the interim government.

This refusal to negotiate comes a day after Ms. Otunbayeva announced that Bakiyev must either stand trial in Kyrgyzstan or go into exile alone, reports Al Jazeera.

"Bakiyev has exceeded the limits of his immunity by spilling blood and now he must be brought to trial and answer before the law," Otunbayeva said after talks with a senior US diplomat in Bishkek…..

Al Jazeera's Roza Ibragimova, reporting after Otunbayeva's news conference, said the interim leader was not clear about whether the interim government would actually seek to have Bakiyev arrested.

According to the Associated Press, Bakiyev has refused to go into exile until the safety of his family is guaranteed. But many of his relatives are accused of corruption, and a court has ordered the arrest of his brother, who headed the state security-guard service and is accused of ordering his men to open fire at the protesters who toppled the government on April 7, killing more than 80.

The international community is stepping in with offers of help. On Wednesday, Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs, met with Otunbayeva and offered his country’s support, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Earlier in the week, Otunbayeva announced that her government would extend the US lease of an airbase used to supply the war in Afghanistan.

According to The Independent, Russia pledged $50 million in aid and loans to Kyrgyzstan since the state’s coffers were empty after the coup.

China, too, has promised to provide humanitarian assistance to the Kyrgyz people, reports the People’s Daily Online, an English-language Chinese daily.

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