Video Sheds Some Light on Andijan Crackdown

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace posted on its web site video footage of the moments leading up to a bloody crackdown on a rally last year in Andijan, eastern Uzbekistan.

The pieced-together footage, apparently recorded by two protesters in the crowd, clearly shows a small number of armed men mixing among the mostly peaceful protesters, adding some support to the Uzbek government's claims it was responding to a serious threat.

The 109 minutes of video, which had been edited by government officials, did not show what rights activists and witnesses called a massacre by government forces that fired automatic weapons into the crowd to clear the streets.

The Washington-based nonprofit group said late last week that its aim was "to make public materials relating to Andijan that have come into our possession" in the hope of shedding greater light on the May 13, 2005, tragedy. The Carnegie Endowment said it had obtained the footage from Bakhtiyar Babadjanov, an authority on radical Islam from the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent who served as a consultant for the Carnegie Endowment and also provided expert testimony to Prosecutor General's Office in Uzbekistan.

It was not clear how much of the footage was shown in October at the trial of 15 men later convicted of organizing the uprising. Prosecutors on Oct. 20 showed similar footage showing crowds gathering and some people giving speeches in the square.

The regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov refused international calls for an independent investigation and insists that the violence was instigated by Islamic militants. The government puts the death toll at 187. Rights activists say government forces shot without warning into a crowd of mostly unarmed residents, killing hundreds or possibly more than 1,000.

In the video, women clad in traditional dresses and headscarves, white-bearded men wearing skullcaps and excited young men, including some armed with automatic weapons, mass in the square. Cries of "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" are heard repeatedly. The women also chant "azadlyk," or "freedom."

Smoke pours out from the rooftop of a white building and gunshots ring out. "Who is shooting?" "It's ours, ours." "Well, now we will go as men," two men offscreen say to each other, according to English subtitles provided by the Carnegie Endowment. Two demonstrators are later seen being taken away by force a security official in a green uniform.

The Carnegie Endowment said the footage had been substantially edited by government officials, beginning and ending abruptly, and that it was clearly designed to portray the demonstration in the worst possible light, although it found no evidence that the audio on the film was edited or voiced over.

It said that the footage did support the Uzbek government claim that at least some of the demonstrators were armed, as it clearly shows armed men in the crowd of demonstrators, demonstrators seizing hostages by force, and demonstrators on the edge of the crowd making Molotov cocktails.

"But the most critical part of the story is missing -- the ending. The film provides no footage on the last part of the demonstration, so demonstrators' claims that they were attacked without warning cannot be confirmed," it said.