More latest: BBC host on World Service radio: “I take it that you’re more frightened than excited?” he asked a reporter on the streets.

E-mails from residents to BBC: They are all drunk people…. there are NO drunk people … we’re trying to get out and go to Moscow … I saw three dead bodies … sent to

Latest AP: Parliament has “elected a former opposition lawmaker as interim president of Kyrgyzstan.”

Latest from BBC freelance reporter/witness, 11AM PST: Mob rule. Opp. has no control of the people. Massive looting. No police protection. All dept. stores have been ransacked. People seen carting refrigerators down the road….

Update [2005-3-24 10:45:51 by susanhbu]: New photos, including the release of opposition leader Kulov, and a great map.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPresident Askar Akayev and his family fled the Kyrgyz capital today, a former presidential aide said, after protesters stormed the presidential compound and seized control following clashes with riot policemen during a large opposition rally.

The family left the presidential compound by helicopter for a nearby Russian air base, which they later left, said Mr. Akayev’s former chief of staff, Rafjan Jeenbekov. Their final destination was not immediately clear. There were reports that he was heading for either Russia or Kazakhstan, but his whereabouts could not be confirmed.
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Reports the BBC, protestors have seized all media and appeared on state television. Tune in to BBC World Service Radio for the latest. PHOTO ABOVE, CAPTION: BBC, “Anti-government protests have been gathering strength for weeks” The Reuters video is a must-see. The BBC also has video. You’ll find much more below — new photos and a great map:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usCount on Soj’s remarkable coverage: Her latest — Kyrgyz Elections: Part 4, is just up in Recent Diaries. You can also read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here [MAP LEFT: BBC]

Here’s a bit of background from Democracy Now!‘s today: “In the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, anti-government protesters have stormed the country’s presidential palace. The thousands of protesters seized the country’s seat of power – known as the White House — after security forces fled the complex. The country has witnessed days of demonstrations ever since the opposition accused the government of rigging a parliamentary election. Before the protesters stormed the government compound, demonstrators clashed on the street with police. …”

Quick facts from the BBC:

  • Protesters say parliamentary poll was rigged and want president to resign
  • Opposition includes local leaders who lost seats
  • Protests fuelled by dissatisfaction at the economy and official corruption
  • Presidential election due in October but Akayev barred from running

More from Reuters (this link takes you to more photos):

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOpposition leader Felix Kulov denied media reports that quoted him as saying Akayev had resigned.

“Akayev’s resignation will come when we find him,” he told Reuters.

Kulov was freed from jail earlier in the day by opposition protesters after they seized the main government building in the capital Bishkek and took control of the national television station. …

Many demonstrators wore pink and yellow arm bands which are rapidly becoming the colors of anti-Akayev protest — much as orange was the campaign color in Ukraine and the red rose the symbol of the opposition in Georgia.

Unlike Ukraine and Georgia, there is no single unifying opposition leader in Kyrgyzstan. But Bakiev played a leading role in events on Thursday and could turn out to be a key figure.

More background from The Guardian:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSome demonstrators were able to get inside the compound. Others smashed windows with stones, while hundreds of police stood by and watched.

Protesters marched the defence minister, Esen Topoyev, out of the building, holding him by the elbows. They tried to protect him, but he was hit by stones thrown by the crowd, and one protester kicked him. Interior ministry troops led other officials out by a side door. Three injured people with bandages covering their wounds left accompanied by a doctor.

Two demonstrators waved a flag from a top-floor window in the building and others hurled furniture out of the building as cheers erupted from demonstrators below. The Guardian

More about Kulov from The Guardian:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usElsewhere in the city, opposition leader and former vice-president Felix Kulov [PHOTO] was freed from jail.

“We have freed Kulov. We are already in Bishkek. He will soon speak on television,” Kulov aide Emil Aliyev was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Mr Kulov was jailed for theft and abuse of power in 2001, in what his supporters said was a ploy by Mr Akayev to neutralise the influence of his main rival.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is emerging as another key opposition figure, was at the government compound with the protesters, …

“The people of Kyrgyzstan will not let anybody torment them,” Mr Bakiyev, who heads the People’s Movement, told the crowd at the earlier rally. “We must show persistence and strength, and we will win.”

A Reuters correspondent had earlier reported hearing several gunshots as fighting broke out between opposition protesters and supporters of Mr Akayev. An estimated 10,000 protesters were on the streets of the capital. The Guardian

Reactions recorded by The Guardian:

“I am very happy, because for 15 years we’ve been seeing the same ugly face shamelessly smiling at us,” said 35-year-old protester Abdikasim Kamalov, waving a red Kyrgyz flag. “We could no longer tolerate this. We want changes.”

It’s the victory of the people. But now we don’t know how to stop these young guys,” said Noman Akabayev, an unsuccessful election candidate.

The Guardian

Emphases mine.

Cross-posted at″>Daily Kos.

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