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Uzbek Officials Blame 'Terrorists' for Deadly Tashkent Bombing - 2004-03-29

At least two people were killed and up to 20 injured in an explosion that ripped through a marketplace in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry is blaming terrorists for the bombing.

One of the blasts occurred at mid-morning at the Chorsu market in Tashkent's Old City. The area was quickly sealed off by police and intelligence agents. Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency reported that initial information from the scene indicated a suicide bomber.

According to the Russian news agency Interfax, two terrorist attacks were also staged in the town of Bukhara simultaneously with the explosion in Tashkent.

Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov said there were "several terrorist acts" planned throughout the country. He linked the attacks to the recent train bombings in Madrid and continuing turbulence in neighboring Afghanistan.

Mr. Zakirov said it is clearly a well-planned action. He said police are questioning several people arrested in connection with the explosions.

Tashkent, a city of about three million people, has been subject to extremely tight security controls since February 1999, when a series of bombings killed 16 and injured more than 100 people. Officials blamed those explosions on the militant group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has been linked to the al-Qaida terror network.

Uzbekistan became a key ally of the United States after terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It provided a vital airbase for U.S. troops for its military operations in Afghanistan.