Shootout in Ashgabat
"Reports say a deadly shootout took place overnight in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat between members of an unidentified group and security forces. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat has confirmed a shootout in the city occurred but no further details are immediately available.
"RFE/RL's Turkmen Service says there are reports of dead and wounded on both sides. Government-controlled Turkmen media have not provided any information.
"Halmurad Glychdurdy, an RFE/RL correspondent living in the Turkmen capital, says he heard the shooting and explosions all night long.
"'I heard myself all the explosions and shooting,' he said. 'We have never experienced something like that [here in Ashgabat]. We did not suspect [in the beginning] that it was some kind of a clash. But when this shooting continued all night, no one could ignore that it was.'"
This is pretty shocking. Turkmenistan, as far as I know, has no previously known armed opposition groups? Could they be linked to the man, whose name I forget, who served late President Saparmurat Niyazov as a head of security and has since been ousted by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov? Is a militant Islamist undercurrent in Turkmenistan surfacing? The government will undoubtedly blame criminal gangs or, in Central Asian political tradition, Hizb ut-Tahrir.