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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Blast rocks Kyrgyzstan capital

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A blast has rocked Kyrgyzstan ahead of Hillary Clinton's visit (AP)

An explosion has rocked the centre of Kyrgyzstan’s capital ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, slightly wounding two police officers, a day after security forces battled Islamic militants in a restive southern city.

Authorities said the explosion in Bishkek took place early on Tuesday morning outside the venue of a high-profile trial against top officials of the recently deposed government.

The blast, which formed a deep crater in the road, was set off outside an entrance used by defendants in the trial. The health ministry said two police officers were lightly injured.

Mrs Clinton is due to travel to the country on Thursday.

Her visit comes amid US attempts to buttress stability in the troubled former Soviet nation, which hosts a key air transit facility used as a jumping-off point for troops travelling to and from nearby Afghanistan.

Tensions are high in the Central Asian nation amid sensitive political bargaining over the formation of a new government and renewed violence in the restive south.

Clashes between security forces and Islamic militants broke out on Monday in the city of Osh. Officials said the militants were planning a series of terrorist attacks in the country.

Three insurgents were shot and killed by government forces during the gun battle, while another militant blew himself up. One soldier was wounded.

Security council secretary Marat Imankulov said three suspects detained after the firefight were members of the Islamic Movement of Turkestan.

A Kyrgyz court is hearing the case against 28 former officials, including the self-exiled former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, on charges they were complicit in ordering troops to open fire on demonstrators during protests in April that brought down the government. Lawyers have complained they and their clients have been subjected to threats and intimidation.

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