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Uzbekistan Tightens Security After Terror Attacks - 2004-07-01


Police in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, are spot-checking cars and trucks, police stations have been moved to less populated areas and airport security is tight. These are some of the measures taken since March, when terrorist bombers struck in the capital and a village near the historic city of Bukhara, killing 19 people. VOA's Lisa McAdams visited the bomb sites, and reports people find a degree of reassurance in the tight security.

One of Tashkent's biggest bazaars is Chorsu - a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells. Swarthy spice sellers, slick black market currency dealers and watermelon salesmen sit side-by-side hawking their wares. The daily buying, selling, trading and haggling takes place across the entire sports stadium, and thousands of people come here to do their daily shopping. It was just across the street from here, near a police station, that on March 29, women suicide bombers blew themselves up in two separate attacks, killing nine people and maiming many others.

Since then, police have moved the station to an undisclosed location much farther from the busy market and populated areas.

This woman's stall sits directly opposite the bomb site. But she says she feels perfectly safe in the bustling market and that business is good. The woman said that the bombing took place on a Monday, and on the very next day, all was quiet and people were calm. With her three children playing by her side, she added that she feels safe for herself and her children.

While things are back to normal at the bazaar, drastic changes have taken place elsewhere in Tashkent and the countryside. There is a heavy police presence across the capital, with police routinely checking cars and trucks, and the stepped-up security is causing huge traffic delays.

Airport security is much tighter, as well, and at many airports, parking lots have been relocated far from the terminals.

In the village of Kakhramon, some 20 kilometers outside the Silk Road City of Bukhara, residents eye visitors with suspicion. There, a bomb explosion at a farmhouse killed 10 people. The government blames Islamic extremists. It was the worst tragedy to hit the village.

This 77-year-old man, who did not want his name mentioned, said he has never known such an event to happen in Kakhramon before. The man said he is the grandfather of one of the young men who died in the house when the explosion occurred. He says his grandson had been hanging around with some strangers, who he says were trying to teach him what he calls "a different way of praying." He says he begged his grandson to stay away from these people, but he wouldn't listen. And now, he says, his grandson is dead and the family has been brought to shame.

A village official first said we had no right to be in the village speaking to residents, but later agreed to the interviews and said life in the village has returned to normal.

He said that what happened here is in the past, and could not be prevented. And, he says, he and the Uzbek government are working hard to make sure similar attacks never happen again. But as one woman back at the Chorsu bazaar put it, "Terrorism is really scary, especially knowing it can happen anywhere at anytime."

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