May 13, 2010 / 6:41 AM / 9 years ago

Kyrgyz protesters take over local government HQ

OSH, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) - Supporters of Kyrgyzstan’s ousted leader seized the regional government office in the southern city of Osh on Thursday, in the latest sign of resistance against the country’s interim government.

A Reuters witness in Kyrgyzstan’s second-biggest city said supporters of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, toppled in last month’s violent revolt, scuffled with guards and entered the government building after holding a demonstration that drew about 1,000 people.

They demanded that a pro-Bakiyev regional governor, sacked by the Central Asian nation’s interim government, be restored.

Any further trouble in Osh, at the heart of Central Asia’s most flammable and ethnically divided corner, would be of concern to regional powers, keen to maintain stability in a country home to a U.S. and a Russian military air base.

The interim government is made up of Bakiyev opponents who have accused him of ordering troops to fire on protesters during last month’s upheaval, as well corruption and nepotism during his five-year rule.

In Bishkek, the capital, interim government chief of staff Edil Baisalov told Reuters that “measures will be taken to restore authority” in the city of Osh. He did not elaborate.

“Those are actions of revanchist forces, they will fizzle out soon,” interim government spokesman Farid Niyazov said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Bakyt Seitov said police were monitoring the situation and would not allow an escalation of unrest.

Bakiyev fled and his opponents claimed power in Kyrgyzstan after protesters stormed government buildings in Bishkek in early April. At least 85 people were killed in clashes between protesters, some of them armed, and police who fired into crowds.

The interim government has struggled to stamp its authority across the impoverished, predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet republic, particularly in Bakiyev’s southern power base.

On Wednesday, it faced its first large public protest in the capital as hundreds of opponents, many of them members of Bakiyev’s Ak Zhol party and the allied Communists, demonstrated against the dissolution of parliament.

Ak Zhol and Communists threatened to further protests on Thursday.

Bakiyev initially fled to the south and sought to muster support after his overthrow, but later left for Kazakhstan and then took refuge in Belarus. He insists he remains president but has said he would not seek to return in that role.

The U.S. base at Bishkek’s Manas airport is key to U.S. efforts to supply forces fighting in nearby Afghanistan.

Moscow and Washington have both expressed support for the interim government, which has promised to hold new parliamentary elections in October.

Additional reporting by Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Maria Golovnina

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