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Kyrgyz president flees to south, protesters seize presidential palace

2010-04-08 14:55 BJT

BISHKEK, April 8 (Xinhua) -- The nationwide protests in Kyrgyzstan scored a preliminary victory on Wednesday after thousands of protesters seized the presidential palace, forcing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to leave the capital city.

Bakiyev, who was accompanied by the country's defense minister, has arrived in the southern city of Osh, where he stays in a presidential residence.

A source in Kazakstan's government told Xinhua that Bakiyev left the capital at Wednesday noon and made a stopover in Kazakhstan before heading for Osh.

As of early Thursday morning, the presidential palace in Bishkek has been occupied by opposition protesters, as witnessed by Xinhua reporters.

Omurbek Tekebayev, chairman of the opposition Ata-jurt movement (fatherland), said in a live TV broadcast on early Thursday morning that the Kyrgyz military has been neutral throughout the unrest, while the interior ministry has stopped sending police to intervene in the protesters' activities since Wednesday afternoon. But neither the military nor the police have surrendered to the protesters, he added.

Tekebayev also said he hopes former defense minister Ismail Isakov, a leading opposition figure who was recently released from jail, could use his influence to persuade the military and the police to surrender.

He also said many protesters have been armed. "We must prevent the Bakiyev regime from coming back and prevent any new deadly incidents."

Later Wednesday, key opposition leader Temir Sariev claimed that a new government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, the country's former foreign minister and leader of the Social Democratic faction, has been formed.

He also said the Central Asian country's Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov had signed a letter of resignation, adding that the opposition has entered the building where the government operates.

Protesters have also seized the headquarters of the country's internal security forces, Sariev said.

However, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the U.S. government believes that the Kyrgyz government is still in power.

After midnight Wednesday, the situation in Bishkek seemed to have calmed down a little and the protesters began to disperse, as witnessed by Xinhua reporters.