1 serviceman dead in raid to seize ex-Kyrgyz president

Kyrgyz special forces stand in guard at former president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev's residence in the village of Koi-Tash, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the capital, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (AKIpress via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Kyrgyz forces were reported pulling out of a village after an unsuccessful raid to try to arrest the country’s ex-president at his residence in an operation that left one serviceman dead and more than 40 people injured.

The raid at former president Almazbek Atambayev’s residence south of Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek began Wednesday evening and continued into the pre-dawn hours. A throng of Atambayev supporters resisted the raiders; some barricaded themselves inside and took six servicemen as hostages.

The Interfax news agency cited Deputy Interior Minister Kursan Asanov as saying the decision to pull out was made after negotiations with Atambayev supporters, who agreed to release the six hostages by the morning if forces pulled back. The Kyrgyz news agency jg.24 also reported forces were leaving the village of Koi-Tash, but did not provide details.

The raid raises concerns about political stability in Kyrgyzstan, which borders China and hosts a Russian military air base.

Local news reports said some people were wounded by weapons fired by special forces in the raid, including a journalist. The state security committee said only plastic bullets were fired.

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament in June rescinded the immunity that Atambayev had been accorded as a former president, opening him to potential prosecution.

Since then, supporters have kept watch outside his residence in Koi-Tash, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Bishkek, expecting an attempt to arrest him.

He is accused of a range of crimes, including corruption and the expropriation of property.

Atambayev, who was in office from 2011 to 2017, has said the charges were concocted by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who was once his protégé.

Atambayev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, suggesting that he enjoys Kremlin support. But Putin later said Russia was committed to working with Jeenbekov.

Kyrgyzstan, once hailed as an “island of democracy” in post-Soviet Central Asia, has repeatedly been shaken by political upheavals. Its first two presidents after independence were both driven from office by riots.