An explosion in Kyrgyzstan's capital on Tuesday wounded at least two people outside a sports palace where several people are standing trial accused of mass killings during an April uprising in the Central Asian republic. Investigators in Bishkek were trying to determine the nature of the explosive device, Alik Karimbayev, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council, said. The windows of the sports palace were blown out, although the building itself was not damaged.
The explosion underscores tensions in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic that hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases, where authorities are trying to form a new government less than six months after hundreds were killed in ethnic violence. On Monday, Kyrgyz authorities said four Islamist militants were killed during a raid in the southern city of Osh, the focal point for the ethnic bloodshed in June. One died when he detonated a grenade, the Security Council said.
The Health Ministry said two soldiers were wounded in Tuesday's blast in Bishkek and had been taken to hospital. A Reuters witness at the scene said the sports palace had been cordoned off and police were conducting a security sweep of the the building with dogs. The sports palace is hosting the trial of 22 people accused of killing dozens of people in Bishkek during a popular uprising in April that ousted the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Officials say 87 people were killed on April 7, when forces loyal to Bakiyev shot into crowds in a square in central Bishkek. Bakiyev is now exiled in Belarus. The first day of the trial on Nov. 17 descended into chaos when relatives of the deceased broke through police lines and threatened the accused, demanding their execution.
Three of the defendants subsequently fled their homes to avoid standing trial. Baktybek Rysaliyev, spokesman for the Supreme Court, said hearings scheduled for Tuesday had been postponed as a result of the explosion.
After elections last month, Kyrgyzstan is attempting to form the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region otherwise governed by authoritarian presidents. Critics of the new parliament say it lacks authority.