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Kyrgyz Political Opposition Claims to Have Seized Power

The political opposition in Kyrgyzstan says it has seized power, after thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police in the capital, Bishkek, and other cities Wednesday. At least 40 people are dead and more than 400 others are wounded.

Rosa Otunbayeva, the head of the political opposition's Central Executive Committee, says Kyrgyzstan's political opposition is now in control.

She told the Russian-language Mir TV channel that the National Security Service and the Interior Ministry are already under new leadership.

Otunbayeva says the takeover was necessary because "The question of security is a question of top priority."

Omurbek Tekebayev, the leader of the Ata-Meken political opposition party, says the Central Executive Committee will head the government until elections are held. He says an election will take place "in the nearest future."

It is Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and the head of the Central Executive Committee, who appears to be the de facto leader of the opposition government.

Opposition figures earlier said Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov had agreed to resign. There has been no confirmation of that claim.

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti

Tensions have been growing in Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mountainous nation of five million people. Activists say this is in response to the repressive policies of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets Wednesday, where they engaged in bloody battles with police.

President Bakiyev came to power in 2005 after his predecessor, Askar Akayev, was ousted in street protests that became known as the "Tulip Revolution."

One anti-government protester Wednesday says violence and oppression continued from the Akayev government through the Bakiyev government. He predicts there will be "blood for blood."

The United States has long been critical of the Kyrgyz government's human rights record.

On Wednesday, the United States said it deplores the political violence in Kyrgyzstan. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says Washington wants all parties to show respect for the rule of law and to resolve differences in a peaceful and legal manner.

The United States uses the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan for the transit of troops and supplies to Afghanistan. In the past, opposition figures have called for the U.S. to vacate the base.