Kyrgyz opposition running govt, wants election

She said she wanted Presi-dent Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who she helped bring to power five years ago, to resign.

“We have a caretaker government now in place, and I am the head of it,” Otunbayeva told Reuters by telephone.

“It will remain in place for half a year, during which we  will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and  fair (presidential) elections,” she said.

Bakiyev left Bishkek — where demonstrators torched the prosecutor-general’s of-fice and tried to smash trucks into  government buildings — and flew to the southern city of Osh, an  opposition member of parliament earlier told Reuters.

Otunbayeva said she had not been in contact with Bakiyev and  had no idea of his whereabouts.

Bakiyev himself came to power in the 2005 “Tulip Revolution”  protests, led jointly by Otunbayeva, which ousted Kyrgyzstan’s  first post-Soviet president, Askar Akayev. She was a former  foreign minister under Bakiyev.

Spokesmen for the government and the president were not  available for comment.

Sporadic gunfire continued through the night in Bishkek as  crowds looted shops and ran through streets strewn with rubble  and glass, whistling and waving red national flags. Many  buildings remained ablaze, including the prosecutors’ office.

Kyrgyz news agency Kabar said looters ransacked and set  ablaze a house belonging to the family of Bakiyev.

The United States has a military air base supporting troops  in Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz city of Manas and is a major donor  to Kyrgyzstan, along with China and Russia, which also has  military base in the ex-Soviet state of 5.3 million people.

State Department spokes-man PJ Crowley said operations at  the base — visited by US Central Command chief General David  Petraeus last month — appeared unaffected.

“Right now the transit centre at the Manas airport is  functioning normally,” he said. “It’s an important facility  connected to our Afghan operations and it’s functioning  normally.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier called for calm and  denied Russia had played a hand in the clashes that have spread  across Kyrgyzstan since last month.

“Neither Russia, nor your humble servant, nor Russian  officials have any links whatsoever to these events,” Putin was  quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

Political unrest over poverty, rising prices and corruption  has gripped Kyrgyzstan since early March. About a third of the  population live below the poverty line and remittances from  workers in Russia have fallen during the global economic crisis.

The opposition said at least 100 people had been killed yesterday. A Health Ministry official put the death toll in  Bishkek at 47, and said 420 people had been injured.

A doctor at a Bishkek hospital said many of the victims had  been shot. “There are dozens of dead bodies, all with gunshot  wounds,” Akylbek Yeukebayev told Reuters.     Kyrgyz troops earlier shot at thousands of anti-government  protesters who tried to smash two trucks through the perimeter  fence of government buildings, a Reuters reporter said.

Around 1,000 people stormed the prosecutor-general’s office  before setting fire to the building. Opposition activists also  took control of state television channel KTR.

Protesters seized government buildings in three other towns.  In Talas, Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Aklybek Japarov and  Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev were beaten. Kongantiyev  was forced to shout: “Down with Bakiyev!”, two witnesses said.

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