After a visit by foreign diplomats to the town in Uzbekistan where it is claimed hundreds of people were shot dead by security forces, there are growing international calls for an independent investigation. On a tightly-controlled tour of Andizhan, diplomats and journalists were taken to the prison where the unrest began last Friday.
They were not shown the school where witnesses say at least 500 people, including women and children, were gunned down, and local people were nowhere to be seen on the streets.
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw is among those demanding the Uzbek leader allows more light to be shed on events; “I therefore call on President Karimov to agree to full and immediate access to Andizhan for non-governmental organisations, for international agencies and diplomats on the ground and to take action to address the root causes of the discontent and to develop a much more open and pluralistic society in Uzbekistan,” he said on a visit to Washington.
Like Britain, the United Nations and the European Union are demanding an independent inquiry, and the United States has called on Uzbekistan, an ally in its war on terrorism, to be open about events in Andizhan. For those still looking for missing relatives, an anxious wait continues as lists of hospital patients are published. Uzbek authorities are sticking to their line that 169 people were killed, most of them described as “bandits.” The government has blamed the unrest on Islamic extremists.