Uzbekistan president Karimov dead

Islam Karimov, who crushed all opposition in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan as its only president in a quarter-century of independence from the Soviet Union, has died of a stroke at age 78, the Uzbek government announced Friday.

The opposition Ferghana news agency, which is based in Russian Federation, on Thursday said preparations were under way for Karimov's funeral in Samarkand, his hometown, where streets were being cleaned and parts of the city centre were cordoned off. Up until his death, Karimov increasingly relied on a narrative that Western powers and their internal agents had attempted to import alien social, cultural, or religious phenomena and destabilize the country. However, Turkey became the first country to comment publicly about Karimov's passing on Friday, even though there was no official confirmation of the president's death.

There are conflicting reports about whether Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov has died. "May Allah rest him in peace", Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said during a televised cabinet meeting.

A Russian news agency, TASS, reported about his death on Friday, but later withdrew the online article citing "technical error".

Karimov had been in power in the former Soviet state since 1989.

The massacre marked a turning point in government repression that resulted in the European Union and the United States imposing sanctions on Uzbekistan and calling on the Uzbek government to allow an global, independent investigation, demands that Karimov rejected. Most serious was a mass insurrection in the Ferghana city of Andijon 11 years ago, put down with exceptional ferocity by Karimov's security forces.

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

Uzbekistan also controls substantial reserves of oil, gas and gold, and is a major producer of cotton. The president's mother and two brothers are buried in the city.

Samarkand airport announced it would be closed to all flights except specially approved aircraft on Saturday, according to the website of the US Federal Aviation Administration.

In this photo taken on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, Uzbek workers clean an area of the central cemetery in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Her younger sister Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva has risen to public prominence, serving as Uzbekistan's ambassador to the Paris-based UNESCO.

Other frontrunners for his position include Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his deputy, Rustam Azimov. He and Putin last met in June, when Uzbekistan hosted the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group that includes Russia, China and central Asian states.

Related news