Clash in Ashgabat
"The overall picture of the incident involved an armed group being confronted by security forces. Eyewitnesses told the Associated Press that the streets around the area where the fighting occurred were patrolled by armored personnel carriers (APCs). Others reported seeing tanks in the streets. The response seemed disproportionate and in all likelihood poorly organized. Russian press reports suggested that Islamic terrorists were involved and had seized a drinking water plant. They were reportedly fired on by tanks and APCs, with the precaution being considered of closing the local airport. The following day, the area was patrolled by APCs and security personnel; but by evening the situation had returned to normal. An opposition website alleged that up to 20 Turkmen police officers had been killed and their bodies taken in secret to hospitals in Ashgabat (Ekho Moskvy Radio, Vremya Novosti, AP, www.gundogar.org, September 14).
"Additional reporting seemed to corroborate that a building or plant had been seized in the capital by an armed group that took some hostages and that security forces had later stormed the building, resulting in casualties on both sides. The official explanation for the incident, however, is that it involved only armed drug dealers. No explanation was given for why they had taken hostages, the sequence of events, or why the security forces had deployed in such strength against lightly armed targets. Nor was there any reliable information about casualties, with reports varying between 20 Turkmen security personnel killed to about nine on each side with as many injured."