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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Series of Attacks Rocks Uzbekistan

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Two suicide bombings, attacks on police and an explosion at an alleged terrorist bomb-making factory in Uzbekistan killed 19 people including the bombers and injured 26, the country's prosecutor general said Monday.

The suicide bombings were the first ever reported in Uzbekistan.

Prosecutor General Rashid Kadyrov said the events began Sunday night with an explosion that killed 10 people at a house being used by extremists in the central province of Bukhara.

There were also two attacks on police Sunday night and early Monday, killing three policemen, and two suicide bombings near the Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent's Old City, which killed three policemen and a young child, he said.

Kadyrov said the attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists, singling out the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir group and followers of the strict Wahhabi sect of Islam.

"A preliminary investigation shows all the events are interconnected and aimed at destabilization of the country," Kadyrov said.

President Islam Karimov said the attacks had been planned at least six months in advance, and had been originally set to take place before the Central Asian New Year holiday Navruz, which fell on March 21. The planning and money required to carry out such attacks also indicates it had outside support, he said.

"As the president I promise all measures will be taken to stop such terrorist acts," Karimov said on state television in a Russian translation of remarks in Uzbek.

He added that citizens should remain alert.

Kadyrov said one person had been arrested and that authorities were searching for other suspects, but declined to say how many people might have been involved in the attacks.

The Tashkent market blasts were set off by female suicide bombers outside a children's store and at a bus stop, Kadyrov said.

He said the tactic of suicide bombings was previously unknown to Uzbekistan and indicated foreign involvement in the attacks. "The character and method of this act is not common to our people. It was probably exported from abroad," he said.

Kadyrov said the explosions in Bukhara happened at a house that extremists had been using as a bomb-making factory. He said police found 50 bottles with handmade ingredients for bombs and instructions on how to make them, a Kalashnikov rifle, two pistols and ammunition. Extremist Islamic literature was also found in the house.

A resident of the city of Bukhara said on condition of anonymity that there were at least two explosions Monday in the Roshtan district, 15 kilometers west of Bukhara.

Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev said the situation in the country was stable.

"The terrorists aimed to create panic and chaos, but they didn't manage to do so," Safayev said.

He also tied the attacks to ongoing terrorist violence in Iraq that has focused on police working with U.S. authorities there. "Police are a soft target," he said, when asked about why police were targeted. "We see a repeat of that which was tested abroad."

Kadyrov said the materials used in the explosives were similar to those used in a series of simultaneous bombings in Tashkent in 1999 -- an alleged assassination attempt against President Karimov that was blamed on the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

But Safayev declined to say whether Monday's attacks could have been linked to ongoing operations in Pakistan's border regions.

If the link to Hizb-ut-Tahrir is confirmed, it would be the first time the group has been implicated directly in a terrorist attack. The group claims to be nonviolent, but Uzbek authorities have strongly insisted that it was a breeding ground for terrorists, justifying their crackdown on independent Muslims.

Uzbekistan is a key U.S. ally in Central Asia, and American troops are using a military base at the southern city of Khanabad for operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent warned in a statement that "other terrorists are believed still at large and may be attempting additional attacks."

Police and intelligence agents closed off the Chorsu market, the biggest in Tashkent, and vans with investigators were massed in front of the Detsky Mir store, where the blast occurred.

There was no visible sign of an explosion from afar. An eyewitness, who did not give her name, said she felt the ground shake when one of the explosions went off.

At the nearby First City Hospital, where Interior Ministry officials said victims were taken, a man in the hallway was crying, "Where is my daughter? Is she alive or dead?"

A nurse tried to comfort him before a doctor approached and scolded her, telling her not to give any information to anyone -- even victims' relatives. Another government official down the hallway also warned doctors and nurses not to talk.