Friday 20 October 2017

Authoritarian Uzbek leader Islam Karimov dies

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has died aged 78
Uzbek President Islam Karimov has died aged 78

Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has died aged 78 after suffering a stroke, three diplomatic sources said on yesterday, leaving no obvious successor to take over the Central Asian nation.

The Uzbek government did not immediately confirm the reports.

Earlier on Friday it said the health of Mr Karimov (pictured), who has been in hospital since last Saturday, had sharply deteriorated.

Long criticised by the West and human rights groups for his authoritarian style of leadership, Karimov had ruled Uzbekistan since 1989, first as the head of the local Communist Party and then as president of the newly independent republic from 1991.

"Yes, he has died," one of the diplomatic sources said when asked about Mr Karimov's condition.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim became the first foreign leader to offer condolences over the death of Mr Karimov. The two countries have close ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties.

Mr Karimov did not designate a successor and analysts say the transition of power is likely to be decided behind closed doors by a small group of senior officials and family members.

If they fail to agree on a compromise, however, open confrontation could destabilise Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan and has become a target for Islamist militants.

Irish Independent

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