Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Civilian Massacre by Uzbek Forces in Andijan

Yesterday's Le Monde has a sourced report by Jacques Follorou and Natalie Nougayrède of the massacre of innocent and unarmed civlians in Andijan by Karimov's troops following the street demonstrations there. Karimov claimed only armed demonstrators were killed but it is an outrageous and murderous lie.

LE MONDE | 23.05.05 | 15h46

On the morning of Friday 13 May in Andijan, a city of 300,000 in the Ferghana Valley, a vast oasis of rice paddies, cotton fields and fruit orchards along Central Asia’s ancient Silk Road, a crowd assembled, seized with fear and excitement. The night before, at midnight, armed insurgents took control of an armory and broke down the gates of the prison, freeing hundreds of prisoners, including 23 local businessmen.

They next entered city hall. In Babour Square, thousands of residents, venting their exasperation with the regime of Uzbek President Karimov, in power since 1989, began to assemble.

The fate of the 23 businessmen is the key element which set off the revolt. The trial of these men, accused of religious extremism, had be going on in Andijan since February. A crowd of supporters and relatives watched the proceedings; the verdict was to be read on 12 May. The day before, however, the authorities announced the suspension of the trial and a change of venue to a faraway province on the Aral Sea. The decision sent a wave of anger through the populace.

Among the accused were two brothers of Khassan Sharikov, a frail young man of 27 in exile in Kyrgyzstan in an encampment of military-issue tents along the Kara Daria river, which demarks the Uzbek frontier. Next to some 500 other refugees demanding political asylum in Kyrgyzstan, Khassan narrates the events of the days which led to the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by the Uzbek army on the afternoon of 13 May.
My brothers Shakir and Shavkiat ran a garment shop which employed forty or so workers. Starting in June of 2004 the SNB –the Uzbek secret police- began a shakedown operation targeting them and other entrepreneurs in the city, threatening tax audits and closures. My brothers were part of a group of entrepreneurs, furniture manufacturers, toolmakers and tradesmen providing mutual assistance. They became very popular among the populace because they gave people jobs. Their employees received health care and free meals. In the mahallas (traditional Uzbek neighborhoods) they organized celebrations, prepared lamb and distributed gifts. My brothers contributed to the orphanage. Everything was founded on a certain ethic.
In Babour Square that 13th of May, people spoke up, one by one, using a loudspeaker taken from city hall, including the city prosecutor. Men complained of economic hardship. Women protested the wave of arrests sweeping the region over the last few months. The crowd grew. Khassan Sharikov says there were 30,000 demonstrators. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Tashkent says there were between 5000 and 10,000 people. No Islamist slogans were used, only calls for justice and freedom.

Around 10 a.m., an armored military vehicle belonging to the forces which had concentrated themselves in the side streets, entered Babour Square and opened fire on the demonstrators. Combat helicopters appeared overhead. The crowd, which had heard on the radio that President Karimov was heading for Andijan, believed for a moment that he had arrived and that there would be negotiations.

Around noon, other shots where heard, coming from a second armored vehicle racing down Navoï Avenue, equipped with a machine gun and following by trucks filled with soldiers. The wounded and the dead (between ten and twenty corpses) were carried towards city hall. Inside the building, young Khassan began to send e-mails on a city computer to journalists and press agencies who knew us, because they had been covering the trial of the Twenty-Three.

According to information gathered by Western diplomats in Tashkent, negotiations by telephone took place between the insurgents and Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov. The demands of the protesters were the release from prison of the twenty-three defendants; this was judged unacceptable by President Karimov.

Around 5 pm, the shooting from the military grew more intense and a portion of the crowd left the square heading down Shoulpon Avenue, the only remaining exit after the military had encircled the square. Soldiers, hidden behind the trees lining the boulevard, opened fire. People fell dead. Armed insurgents deployed themselves between the military and the departing crowd in order to protect them against the soldiers, relates Khassan Sharikov. Women and children to the middle!, shouted the insurgents, who had placed local officials taken hostage in front of them as human shields.

When they got to the Shoulpon Cinema they discovered that the avenue was blocked by armored vehicles and surrounded by army snipers on the rooftops. This is where the largest number of killings took place. The troops took aim at the crowd with heavy machine guns. There were many, many dead, says Khassan Sharikov. We were flat on the ground. It lasted 15 minutes. I lifted my head to see women and children covered in blood, exploded limbs due to the impact of the bullets and fractured skulls. The ground was covered with pools of blood and rain. The men protecting us were all dead.

A group of residents managed to escape down an alley and began the long, all-night trek towards the Kyrgyz frontier where other soldiers opened fire on them as they walked along a narrow path, killing eight of them. My wife fell, stricken by a hail of bullets which pierced her kidneys, recounts Akram Zahidov, under a tent in Kara Daria.

According to the Red Cross Committee in Uzbekistan, its was possible to ascertain from bullet wounds fired at point blank range at forty corpses that the Army had finished off the wounded following the Andijan fusillade. Other dead were carried away by trucks. Access to hospitals, morgues and School No. 15, where bodies were collected, remains forbidden to NGOs and the Red Cross.

OCSE and the Red Cross officials say hundreds of people (between 300 and 500) –but not thousands as other sources reported- were killed during the disturbances. OCSE underscores that no warning was issued to the crowd, which was peaceful and unarmed and that insurgents did not fire on the military before the assault on the crowd. This refutes President Karimov’s version of events, according to which no unarmed civilian was shot.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Mark from Ireland said...

Somewhat off topic to this ppsting nur:

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1491265,00.html

Zarqawi wounded, website says

James Sturcke and agencies
Tuesday May 24, 2005


The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been wounded, according to a statement published on the internet today.
"O nation of Islam ... pray for the healing of our Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from an injury he suffered in the path of God," said a statement on a website known for its militant content.

"Let the near and far know that the injury of our leader is an honour, and a cause to close in on the enemies of God, and a reason to increase the attacks against them," it continued.

The statement was attributed to the al-Qaida Organisation for Holy War in Iraq but its authenticity could not be verified.

The group's media coordinator, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi, is said to have posted it, and it did not say how or when Zarqawi was injured.

Zarqawi, 38, has been linked to the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 and is thought to be responsible for the kidnapping of western workers including the British hostage, Ken Bigley. Reports since Bigley's death last October suggest Zarqawi may have personally beheaded the 62-year-old engineer.

The Jordanian heads the US-led coalition's most wanted list in Iraq and there is a $25m reward for his capture, the same as that offered for Osama bin Laden.

In Baghdad, spokesman for US forces in Iraq Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan said that "we have no information on whether he's wounded or what the state of his health is. He's still our number one target to be captured or killed and until that happens, the hunt is still on".

He also said that such reports had been heard frequently before and were almost impossible to verify. "This could be another one of their ploys, you never know," he added.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it had no basis to confirm or deny the story.

There have been rumours in the intelligence community in recent weeks that Zarqawi had been shot, possibly in western Iraq near the Syrian border, where US forces have been mounting an offensive against insurgents.

Zarqawi has been linked to the deadly suicide bombings targeting Iraqi Shias and the country fledgling security services.

US forces in Iraq said last month they had recently come close to capturing him.

Zarqawi reportedly met his lieutenants in Syria last month and ordered an increase in attacks following the installation of the newly elected Iraqi government. A senior US military official said Zarqawi and his leadership have met at least five times in foreign countries during the conflict, most recently during the past 30 days in Syria.

At the time al-Qaida denied Zarqawi went to Syria. It is unusual for the group and its media spokespeople to speak out about the condition of its leader and his likely whereabouts.

Last week, a tape purported to have been recorded by Zarqawi surfaced in which he denounced Iraq's Shias as US collaborators and justified killing them.

"God ordered us to attack the infidels by all means ... even if armed infidels and unintended victims - women and children - are killed together," the speaker said. "The priority is for jihad [holy war], so anything that slows down jihad should be overcome."

Zarqawi has been tried in absentia and sentenced to death for planning attacks in his native Jordan. Intelligence officers in Morocco and Turkey have also implicated him in high-profile suicide attacks there during 2003.

ALSO:

According to reports from Amman. bin Laden is to shortly announce the restoration of the caliphate.


Why is this worth noting? Because if true it represents a major shift in strategy. Prior to now al-Qaeda which is a fusion of Wahabbi salafiyya al jihadi and Egyptian radicalism has given little if any thought to its global aims. Instead it has battenend onto local irredentist struggles or to identity politics - particularly here in Europe.

This represents a considerable weakness. IF they are going to declare a caliphate IMO we can expect a wave of recruits.

2:32 PM  
Blogger saurabh said...

Um. Who is the caliph? And where's he going to live?

2:36 PM  
Anonymous mark from ireland said...

TBA I think Saurabh :-)

2:55 PM  
Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

I believe al-Zarkawi is not_the_real_al_qaeda myself.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Traveller said...

I hate the thought of modern governmental brutality visiting the Ferghana.

Agree about al Zarkawi. I seem to remember a moment when he was given the AQ label.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Mark from Ireland said...

Can't agree 'though I see your point PW and Nur. One of the things about Al Qaeda is that it is a very loose organisation often consisting of alliances. IOW al-Qaeda gives its imprimatur to a group.

This goes right back to its earliest days when the Egyptian Tanzim group signed a formal treaty of alliance. (Tanzim's leader is bin-Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri.)

12:59 PM  
Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

The _real_ al qaeda are an assortment of 5,000 wealthy individuals and engineers.

6:19 PM  

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