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Uzbekistan strongman Karimov dies

Uzbekistan strongman Karimov dies

Uzbekistan strongman Karimov dies

Thousands mourned the death of Uzbekistan's longtime President Islam Karimov as he was buried in his hometown of Samarkand, leaving behind a power vacuum in the Central Asian nation.

"He was our dear president, who did so much for our country, things that we could not even see or know about", one woman interviewed, wiping tears from her eyes.

Tightly-controlled state television interrupted hours of traditional mourning music to show footage tracing the journey of Karimov's coffin from the hospital in the capital Tashkent to a Muslim ceremony on the turquoise-domed World Heritage site Registan square in Samarkand. Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes will represent Turkey.

"The death of Islam Karimov may open a pretty risky period of unpredictability and uncertainty in Uzbekistan", Pushkov told the Tass news agency on Friday.

Loyalist Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev is heading the organisation committee for the funeral, suggesting that he could be in line to take over long-term from Mr Karimov.

It appears that Karimov has left no designated successor to take over from him but analysts agree the next president looks certain to come from the small group of loyalists around the strongman.

"When we found out about his death, all my family - my wife, my son's wife, the children - we were all crying, we couldn't believe it", one local man, 58, told AFP, refusing to give his name.

His death "is a great loss of the Uzbek people", ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, according to state media. In 2013, she was overwhelmed by a major corruption scandal in Sweden, in which journalists made public that Telecommunications giant TeliaSonera had allegedly bribed Uzbek officials to enter the country's mobile phone market.

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Many mourners held flowers, mostly red roses, which they laid on the road as the funeral cortege drove by on its way to the airport.

Karimov became the leader of Uzbekistan in 1989, when it was a Soviet republic, and held power with ruthless determination throughout all of Uzbekistan's independence.

Karimov was married with two adult daughters. His only challenger in 2000, Abdulkhafiz Dzhalolov, said he himself voted for Karimov.

In July 2005, however, after Washington pushed for an global investigation of the Andijan incident, the Uzbek government gave USA forces six months to vacate the Karshi-Khanabad Airbase in southeastern Uzbekistan, where some 800 American troops had been stationed since 2001.

The Kremlin's top political adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Russian Federation expects the political situation in Uzbekistan to remain stable after the death of Karimov.

Human rights groups say as many as 12,000 political prisoners are in jail and many others have been murdered.

In the wake of global criticism over the alleged massacre, which Karimov's regime rebuffed, Tashkent shut down a U.S. military base used to supply operations in neighbouring Afghanistan since 2001.

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