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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Activist Counts 500 Bodies

APUzbek refugees shaving in a Kyrgyz border town, where they fled unrest.
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek rights activist said Tuesday that she personally had seen about 500 bodies in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan after troops fired on protesters, contradicting the official claim that 169 died.

Gulbakhor Turayeva, a former doctor turned rights activist, said she counted 400 bodies lying in the yard of Andijan's School No. 15 a day after the violence. She said there were about 100 other bodies there, but that she had been driven out of the school before she could make a precise count.

Government troops shot at demonstrators in Andijan on May 13 after protesters stormed a local prison and government headquarters. Uzbek President Islam Karimov blamed the violence on Islamic militants and denied that troops had fired on unarmed civilians.

Karimov has shrugged off activists' claims that hundreds had died and stonewalled Western demands for an international investigation.

Turayeva, who heads the Anima-Cor rights group, said most of the dead she saw at the schoolyard were men. "I saw bodies on the ground behind the fence, and I counted about 400 of them," Turayeva said at a news conference in the capital, Tashkent. "There were more just round the corner. I would estimate their number at around 100, but the guards drove me away before I could count them."

Turayeva said that another rights activist, whom she declined to name, told her that she had seen another 50 bodies, mostly women and children, kept in a college building across the street on the same day.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that as part of an ongoing crackdown on rights defenders, the Uzbek government had arrested a prominent activist, Saidjahon Zaynabitdinov, who had strongly criticized the violence in Andijan and said the death toll could be as high as 1,000. He was detained Saturday and is being held on unknown charges, the U.S.-based rights group said.