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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Killed in Kyrgyz Prison Riots

APA soldier watching as inmates riot Tuesday at the Petrovka jail near Bishkek.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Gunfire erupted and at least four inmates were killed Tuesday when Kyrgyz riot police stormed three prisons to quell unrest following an insurrection at one of the facilities last month, officials and witnesses said.

Police killed two prisoners at a prison colony in Moldovanovka and another two at a jail in the village of Petrovka, both outside the capital, Bishkek, Deputy Justice Minister Sergei Zubov said.

Zubov said the country's prison system chief, Kapar Mukeyev, was injured slightly in the arm. Two more inmates were also injured during the unrest, he said.

Zubov said the riots erupted in practically all of the country's prisons and detention centers, after police arrived Tuesday morning at the Moldovanovka prison colony to remove 28 inmates suspected of involvement in the murder of a lawmaker, a prison system chief and two other people in the Moldovanovka prison last month.

The suspects were taken to another prison for further investigation.

Zubov said police used armored personnel carriers to storm the Moldovanovka prison after guards of criminal boss Aziz Batukayev, an ethnic Chechen and a suspect in the Oct. 20 murders, formed a human shield around him and fired weapons.

Police on Tuesday seized two Kalashnikov rifles, four grenades, four pistols, and an unspecified amount of ammunition, drugs and money from Moldovanovka inmates, Zubov said.

Witnesses said dozens of troops armed with Kalashnikov rifles surrounded the prison — which houses 450 inmates and is located 20 kilometers north of Bishkek — early Tuesday and that at least two ambulances later left the prison compound.

A resident of the prison neighborhood who gave only his first name, Sergei, said he had heard shooting inside the prison lasting for about 30 minutes.

Kalbu Temirbekova, the mother of one of inmates at Petrovka jail, who was allowed to visit the prison after authorities brought an end to the unrest Tuesday, said three inmates had been killed there. A Petrovka prison official who refused to give his name because of the sensitivity of the subject also said that three prisoners died, in contrast with the official toll of two for that prison.

Batukayev's sister, Yaha, said her brother was injured in Tuesday's operation.

Deputy chief prosecutor Khabibulla Abdugapparov told reporters that police also seized from the Moldovanovka prison photographs of Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov and a Chechen separatist flag.

Injured prison system chief, Mukeyev, who joined the news conference toward the end with his left arm bandaged, said the situation in prisons was coming under control. He said police were inside and controlling all except one prison. He did not name that facility.

The country has five detention centers, 12 prisons and 19 prison settlements with a total population of about 17,000.

Tynychbek Akmatbayev was the third lawmaker to be killed since an uprising in March that forced longtime Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev to flee the country and resign.

Some officials say Akmatbayev's killing was linked to feuding criminal gangs. It is believed that Batukayev had been in conflict with Akmatbayev's brother, Ryspek, who is a reputed criminal boss.

 The head of the U.S. military's Central Command, General John Abizaid, met with Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Tuesday amid efforts by the new Kyrgyz government to increase revenues from the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan.