Soldiers load bodies onto a bus in Uzbekistan after blocking families from collecting them
ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan (AP) - Soldiers loaded dead bodies onto a bus in eastern Uzbekistan on Saturday after blocking families from collecting them, a witness said, as gunfire echoed across the city a day after troops opened fire on thousands of demonstrators.
A witness in central Andijan told The Associated Press that "many, many dead bodies are stacked up by a school near the square,'' where soldiers on Friday put down an uprising that began when armed men freed 2,000 inmates from prison, including suspects on trial for alleged Islamic extremism.
She said soldiers early Saturday blocked friends and relatives from collecting about 15 dead bodies, and later loaded them onto a bus and took them away.
Fresh gunfire was heard in central Andijan Saturday, but the streets appeared largely quiet with most of the city's 350,000 people in their homes.
The death toll from a day of violence Friday in Andijan was not known, but the government said nine died before the shootings in the square but gave no overall figure.
Witnesses said dozens may have been killed by the troops, who rode into the square in a truck behind an armored personnel carrier as helicopters hovered overhead.
Authorities said security forces had regained control of the city administration building seized earlier Friday by armed protesters.
Hostages taken by the demonstrators as human shields at the building were released, a high-ranking Uzbek official said on condition he not be named.
The prison raid and the soldiers' fusillades were in sharp contrast to the largely peaceful uprisings that sparked regime changes in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past 18 months.
President Islam Karimov is regarded as one of the harshest leaders in the former Soviet Union and apparently favors quick and decisive action against any threats to his regime. - AP