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Protests break out in Kyrgyzstan.

4/6/2010 5:51:31 PM

Police have clashed with crowds of protesters in northern Kyrgyzstan, firing tear gas and flash grenades to disperse an anti-government demonstration.

The clashes came after more than 1,000 protesters broke into a government building in the town of Talas, where they took hostage Bolotbek Beishenbekov, the local administrator, on Tuesday, Kyrgyz officials said.

Moldomusa Kongantiyev, the interior minister, said: "They [protesters] had seized the government building, prepared Molotov cocktails and kept the governor hostage for a long time."

But after a police rescue operation, he announced Beishenbekov had been freed and that security forces had regained control over the building.

"Police have stormed the building. He (governor) is now at a local police station," Kongantiyev said.

Witnesses said that following the successful mission, hundreds of demonstrators then gathered around a local police station and threw Molotov cocktails, handmade explosives, at portraits of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan's president.

Protesters cautioned

Daniyar Usenov, the country's prime minister, said about 100 police had been dispatched to Talas as security back-up and issued a grave warning to the protesters.

"I urge the organisers of these actions to desist from what they are doing. For those that do not listen, measures will be severe," he said.

It comes a day after the United People's Movement - a coalition of the country's main opposition groups, promised nationwide anti-government protests this week.

Omurbek Tekebayev, the leader of opposition party Ata-Meken, said the protest in Talas was part of a wave of rallies planned by the opposition to put pressure on Bakiyev to meet their demands.

'Media crackdown'

Tekebayev has demanded that Bakiyev urgently tackle corruption and fire his relatives from senior government positions.

Tuesday's rally comes amid rising tensions between the opposition and Bakiyev's government, which they accuse of cracking down on independent media and fostering corruption.

Earlier this month, a Kyrgyz court shut an opposition newspaper and banned two newspapers close to the opposition, fining them $111,000 for allegedly insulting Bakiyev's honour.

Bakiyev - who came to power five years ago after street protests led to the country's so-called Tulip Revolution, which ousted his predecessor - has grown increasingly unpopular on account of the country's dire economic situation.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished ex-Soviet country in Central Asia, has long been considered one of the region's most politically unstable countries. 2003 - 2009

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Date:Apr 6, 2010
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