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16 Detained in Turkmenistan After Attempted Assassination of President - 2002-11-26

At least 16 people have been detained in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, following an assassination attempt against the president.

Turkmen officials have blamed exiled politicians for the assassination attempt against President Saparmurad Niyazov.

President Niyazov was in a car, riding through the capital city, Ashkhabad, Monday when gunmen opened fire on his convoy. The president was reportedly not hurt during the shooting.

According to a spokesman for the Turkmen president, a group of exiled politicians headed by former Agriculture Minister Sapar Yklymov, organized the assassination attempt.

President Niyazov has ruled the Central Asian country since it became independent in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In 1999, the Turkmen leader declared himself president for life and has cracked down on the political opposition, frequently purging the government of perceived opponents.

President Niyazov, who is 62-years-old, is known as the Turkmenbashi, or Father of Turkmenistan, and has created a cult of personality around himself.

In the center of the capital city stands a massive golden statue of President Niyazov that rotates to always face the sun.