Uzbek journalist shot dead in Kyrgyzstan

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BISHKEK, Oct 24 (Reuters) An independent Uzbek journalist was shot dead in Kyrgyzstan today, police said.

The reporter, identified as Alisher Saipov, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head in the centre of the southern city of Osh where he was based, local police said by telephone.

Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz citizenship, reported on a range of sensitive political issues including activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group banned in Central Asia.

The independent Ferghana news agency said that Saipov, 26, worked for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as Ferghana, before he became head of an independent Uzbek-language newspaper in Osh.

Southern Kyrgyzstan, which borders Uzbekistan, is at the centre of lingering ethnic animosity between the two nations. Relations have been strained since the 1990s when ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz fought each other, killing hundreds of people.

Press freedom is also a concern in Central Asia where reporters often work under pressure from governments. Kyrgyzstan is seen as a relatively liberal state, giving journalists more freedom to report than some other countries.

REUTERS AE KN2330

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