Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president arrested after raids on home

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Kyrgyzstan’s security forces have arrested former President Almazbek Atambayev after a botched raid on his property overnight resulted in the death of one officer.

Mr Atambayev reportedly surrendered and was taken to the country’s capital, Bishkek.

He had earlier refused to surrender, provoking a standoff in which his supporters took six officers captive.

He has denied corruption charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Special forces officers attempted to raid Mr Atambayev’s house late on Wednesday night, but his supporters took up arms in his defence. The six soldiers they captured were later released.

Shortly afterwards, gunfire and stun grenades were reported at the home in a second raid on the property, on the outskirts of the capital.

President Sooronbai Jeenbekov – Mr Atambayev’s former ally and successor – said the ex-president had “grossly flouted” the law by “putting up severe armed resistance” to police.

While previously considered to be a witness, Mr Atambayev – who led Kyrgyzstan from 2011 to 2017 – is now wanted for a “grave crime”, the president told a special parliamentary session.

Mr Atambayev denied the charge, saying it was politically motivated.

What’s the latest?

Special forces used an armoured vehicle to break through the gates of the compound in Koi Tash village outside the capital, and soldiers blocked roads leading to Mr Atambayev’s residence, local media reported.

Reports from local journalists at the scene said Mr Atambayev surrendered to officers. Two aides were thought to be with him.

Local news site 24.kg reports he was flown by helicopter to avoid supporters who were blocking the roads.

Politician Irina Karamushkina, an ally of Mr Atambayev’s, told AFP that his supporters were “ready to defend the former president to the end”.

The former president had planned a rally on Thursday, but cancelled it and called his supporters back to defend his residence.

What happened overnight?

The raid began late on Wednesday. According to Kyrgyzstan’s national security committee (GKNB), special forces armed “only with rubber bullets” were undertaking a “special operation to detain” the former president.

As the troops moved in, the GKNB said, Mr Atambayev’s supporters fired back with live ammunition.

But Mr Atambayev has taken responsibility for the shooting, saying only he had a gun.

One officer was killed, while 80 people were injured – including several members of the security forces – and 53 hospitalised.

“A special forces officer was delivered [to hospital] in an extremely serious condition with a gunshot wound. Despite resuscitation attempts, he died,” a health ministry statement said.

Local media reports say six other soldiers were being held by Mr Atambayev’s followers shortly after the raid was repelled.

As night fell, roads leading to the compound were barricaded by Mr Atambayev’s supporters while security forces regrouped nearby.

Witness Mirbek Aitikeyev, who posted footage of the raid on Facebook, told AFP news agency that some of those protecting Mr Atambayev had seized weapons from the special forces, who “retreated under the onslaught of the crowd”.

“Atambayev is still at his home… there are rumours that additional forces will be sent. The people here are making preparations,” he said.

 

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