TASHKENT: Uzbekistan’s president on Sunday announced fatalities among civilians and law enforcement personnel during protests in the country’s autonomous Karakalpakstan region, which has seen massive unrest over a planned constitutional reform.
“Unfortunately, there are fatalities among civilians and law enforcement officers,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said Sunday during a speech in Karakalpakstan that was relayed by his press service on Telegram.
He did not give any specific number or detail the cause of death.
Uzbekistan on Saturday decreed a month-long state of emergency in the impoverished western region where a large protest erupted Friday over proposed changes to the constitution that would have weakened the region’s status.
Mirziyoyev has since pledged to withdraw the amendments affecting the region from the draft constitution, which is expected to go to a referendum in the coming months.
The clashes pose the most significant challenge yet to the 64-year-old’s rule since he rose to power from the post of prime minister in 2016 when long-serving mentor Islam Karimov died.
On Sunday, Mirziyoyev made his second visit to Karakalpakstan in two days and accused protest organisers of “hiding behind false slogans” and trying to “seize the buildings of local government bodies” in an address to local lawmakers.
“Several groups attempted to seize the buildings of the Nukus City Department of Internal Affairs and the Department of the National Guard in order to obtain weapons,” he claimed.
“Taking advantage of their numerical superiority, these men attacked law enforcement officers, severely beating them and inflicting severe injuries,” he added.
Videos that appear to show people dead and injured from the clashes have raised concerns that the security crackdown has caused a high death toll.