Blasts at US, Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan

A series of attacks on Friday struck the United States and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan along with the country’s prosecutor general’s office, causing casualties, with at least two of the strikes staged by a suicide bomber.

A US embassy official told the Interfax news agency that a suicide bomber wearing a belt full of explosives set off the blast outside the embassy.

”The blast was set off by a man who wore a suicide belt,” the unidentified official said.

He said the embassy was then cordoned off. Interfax quoted an Israeli embassy official as saying that a suicide bomber was also responsible for the blast there.

Another blast went off inside the hall of the general prosecutor’s office headquarters, according to Svetlana Artikova.

An AFP reporter saw several people injured. An ambulance rushed to the scene.

Interfax separately reported that there were casualties in the attacks, but it remained unclear in which of the blasts.

A series of terror strikes struck Uzbekistan in March, with at least 47 people killed in attacks sparked by Muslims dissatisfied with the country’s leadership.

Uzbekistan, a key US ally in the region, blamed the attacks on Islamic extremists and closed its borders to all but freight, saying the measure was needed to keep more extremists from getting into the country.

Suspicion for those attacks has mainly focused on two groups — the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Hizbi Tahrir.

The IMU is a radical group that aimed to establish an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley, which straddles Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and was driven to Afghanistan by the regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Most of the IMU was thought to have been decimated during the US campaign in Afghanistan following the September 11 2001 attacks and after the death of its charismatic leader Djuma Namangani, reportedly a close associate of Osama bin Laden.

There was no initial claim of responsibility for Friday’s blasts. — Sapa-AFP

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