Uzbekistan's gov't says ailing president in critical state

by Abel Hampton September 3, 2016, 4:10

Although the Uzbek government has not yet confirmed the news, a senior diplomat was quoted saying "Yes, he has died" while speaking to Reuters.

Karimov s body was to be flown to Samarkand airport, which on Saturday will be closed to all flights except those with special permission.

Amnesty International (AI) said Karimov's death would mark "the end of an era in Uzbekistan, but nearly certainly not of the pattern of grave human rights abuses".

Karimov's elder daughter Gulnara, described as "the single most hated person in the country" in a US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, said in a letter to a BBC journalist in 2014 that she was beaten and put under house arrest after a fall from grace with her father, sparked by her criticism of top officials around him.

Meanwhile, critics said that Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, became the first foreign leader to offer condolences over the death of Karimov, whose former Soviet republic has close ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties with Turkey.

"Islam Karimov was a prominent statesman, a true leader of the country", the statement by Putin said.

In 2002, two alleged members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir were reportedly tortured to death in an Uzbek prison.

"The Almighty bestowed much grace on our people, our nation, by sending us a man as great as Amir Temur (Tamerlane)", Karimov said in a 1996 speech.

The country is a major cotton exporter and is also rich in gold and natural gas.

Apart from Mirziyoyev, his deputy, Rustam Azimov, has also been seen as a possible successor. "I am struggling for words, I can't believe it myself".

The Kremlin quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying his death was a "heavy loss for Uzbekistan".

On March 24, 1990, the local parliament elected him president of the Uzbek Socialist Republic, and in December 1991, just days after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Karimov won the presidency in a popular vote.

Her younger sister Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva has risen to public prominence, serving as Uzbekistan's ambassador to the Paris-based UNESCO.

Respected Central Asian news website on Friday posted pictures from Karimov's hometown of Samarkand, showing what appeared to be undertakers working on a cemetery plot in the city's historic graveyard where Karimov's family is buried.

Uzbek State television has suspended its usual Independence Day celebrations and is issuing a statement on Karimov's health every three hours, according to BBC Monitoring.

Karimov's relationship with the United States grew after the 9/11 terror attacks, when Washington was trying to gain the cooperation of countries near Afghanistan during its hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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