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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbekistan Raises Andijan Death Toll

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek prosecutor said Monday that the death toll from May's violent uprising in eastern Uzbekistan had risen to 187, and that half of those killed were armed militants.

Bakhodyr Dehkanov, prosecutor for the Andijan region, told foreign diplomats invited to monitor the government's probe into the incident that "terrorists" who were in the crowd of demonstrators on May 13 used hostages as human shields to fire weapons at police and civilians.

The group, comprising representatives from Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the former Soviet Central Asian countries, visited the prison where the uprising began and the main square where the violence erupted.

Officials also showed a video they said was taken by militants during the uprising. In it, armed men could be seen taking unarmed civilians and police officers hostages.

Human rights advocates say up to 750 people died when government troops opened fire on unarmed civilians.

Authorities, who earlier said 176 people died in the violence, have denied that assertion. President Islam Karimov blamed the violence on Islamic radicals.

Western countries have called for an international probe, but the Uzbek government has repeatedly refused, assenting only to a working group of diplomats to monitor its investigation.

Dehkanov said that in addition to the armed fighters, 57 civilians were killed along with 20 police officers and 11 government soldiers. Some 295 people were wounded in the violence, he said.

The uprising began when protesters stormed a prison, freeing alleged Islamic militants and other inmates, and seizing local government offices.

Thousands of demonstrators filled the city's central square and listened to speeches, mostly complaining about poverty and unemployment.

An AP reporter and photographer saw trucks with troops drive by the square and open fire on the crowd after some protesters threw stones at them. Some protesters were armed.

Dehkanov said 527 inmates were released from the prison and 493 were eventually returned to custody. He said five were killed during the violence and 29 inmates were still at large, including 12 who had been arrested by Kyrgyz authorities and were being held in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh.

The prosecutor repeated government assertions that the attackers came from radical Islamic groups including Hizb-ut-Tahir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group suspected of having ties to al-Qaida.

Karimov is regarded as one of the harshest leaders in the former Soviet Union.

Human rights groups and Western governments have denounced his government for torture and repression of opposition groups.