Almaty: As many as eighteen people were killed and 243 wounded during unrest in Uzbekistan’s autonomous province of Karakalpakstan which broke out last week over plans to curtail its autonomy, Uzbek authorities said on Monday. On Saturday President Shavkat Mirziyoyev dropped plans to amend articles of the constitution concerning Karakalpakstan’s autonomy and its right to secede. He also declared a month-long state of emergency in the northwestern province.
Security forces detained 516 people while dispersing the protesters last Friday but have now released many of them, the national guard press office told a briefing. Official reports said protesters had marched through the provincial capital of Nukus last Friday and tried to seize local government buildings, triggering the worst bout of violence in almost two decades in the Central Asian nation of 34 million.
Karakalpakstan, situated on the shores of the Aral Sea which has for decades been a site of environmental disaster, is home to Karakalpaks, an ethnic minority group whose language is closer to Kazakh than Uzbek. Mirziyoyev spoke on Monday to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the president of Kazakhstan which is home to the largest Karakalpak expats. Tokayev’s office said he welcomed Tashkent’s measures to ensure stability in Karakalpakstan.