New Attack(s?) in Khanabad, Uzbekistan closes the Kyrgyz border; Suicide bombing reported in Andijon [Updated]

by Noah Tucker on 5/26/2009 · 11 comments

There’s a flutter of news about this and I won’t attempt to add any commentary until the dust settles a bit. The basic story is that one or two offices of police/special services departments in Khanabad were attacked by a group of armed men who fluctuate in number from five two to twenty and are either “unknown persons” or “members of the IMU.”

Injuries range from a few dead to a few injured to no one even injured (the Uzbek government revised their original brief at around 20:00 local time). It’s a story to watch: so far you can read about it on the BBC, Kommersant (no story yet, just updates) and with sources from Ozodlik, Interfax, and their own stringers. Interestingly, the Russian version on Ferghana is not as complete as the English one, so I don’t know what’s going on there. The Uzbek version of Ferghana has some more coverage, including details about some Russian news sites getting blocked because of their coverage of the Khanabad events and about a big influx of police and military units into Andijan today to handle anymore possible attack.


Late in the evening local time, the Uzbek government announced that a suicide bomber had detonated himself in Andijan today at around 1400 hours, killing a policemen and wounding several civillians. This story has slowly been picked up by the various wire services (see comments below) but so far no articles have appeared that verify or update the information.

Please add links in comments as you see new stories, and I’ll try to update the post a little bit when I have a chance to read more.

Earlier during the day ITAR-TASS was reporting that the original Khanabad (Xonobod) attack had been on a customs/border post and that it was probably connected to criminal activities rather than terrorism. Unnamed diplomats in Tashkent downplayed the explosion as run-of-the-mill cross-border criminal activity. It may be significant that this ITAR-TASS story was one of the sources for the reports that were reportedly being actively blocked inside Uzbekistan. Of course a suicide bombing in Andijon the following afternoon (May 26) would seem to indicate otherwise, assuming the two events are connected.

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This post was written by...

– author of 54 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Noah Tucker is managing editor at and an associate at George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. Noah is a researcher and consultant for NGO, academic and government clients on Central Asian society and culture. He has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002--specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media--and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, E. European and Central Asian Studies in 2008. He has spent four and half years in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, and returned most recently for fieldwork in Southern Kyrgyzstan in the summers of 2011 and 2012.

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michaelhancock May 26, 2009 at 11:46 am

There’s a report from Russia Today on YouTube. also has a take on the violence. Indian Express points out that, oddly, it was the blast itself that closed the border, and that the violence will not interfere with Karimov’s plans to leave the country on diplomatic missions this week.

The border closures are interesting, as they not only stop the attackers from retreating to Kyrgyzstan, but also point to the possibility that the attack originated in the Uzbek-populated adjacent districts of Kyrgyzstan.

Nathan May 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Thanks for posting this Noah. I woke up this morning to find emails asking why I hadn’t posted anything on it yet.

Nathan May 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

This story says that a Kyrgyz official told RIA Novosti that the Kyrgyz have closed the border and that from the Kyrgyz side of the border “traces of blood can be seen on the territory of the neighboring state.”

noah tucker May 26, 2009 at 12:47 pm

The story is evolving: has a brand new story up on the Russian side (not in English this time) with either a fuller report of the Uzbek prosecutor’s office press release or a new release, I can’t tell which–but the major news is that according to the Uzbek government there was also a suicide bombing in Andijon today aroudn 1:45 p.m. local time, killing a policeman and injuring some civillians.

The new story also confirms that there were injuries in the attack last night, which according to the Uzbek government was against a police outpost at the entrance of Khanabad city. This may or may not be the “customs post” that the Kyrgyz sources were talking about this morning.

“«В ночь с 25 на 26 мая с.г. группой из 2-3-х бандитов осуществлено вооруженное нападение с использованием взрывного устройства на блок-пост милиции при въезде в город Ханабад Андижанской области.

В ходе завязавшейся перестрелки получили ранения один сотрудник милиции и один из нападавших бандитов.

Вследствие полученного отпора под покровом ночи бандитам удалось скрыться.

В 13.45-14.00 26 мая с.г. на улице Фитрата г.Андижана неизвестным мужчиной произведен самоподрыв, в результате которого один сотрудник милиции погиб и несколько граждан получили ранения.

По предварительным данным, группа бандитов проникла на территорию Андижанской области из соседнего Кыргызстана.”

This also includes then (for those who don’t read Russian) the first official indication that I’ve seen of that theory Michael mentions above that the attackers came across the border from Kyrgyzstan.

I checked up on the version of the story at that says is being actively blocked by the Uzbek government’s “internet patrol,” and the only difference I can see between the stories was this indication that the attack was against a customs post, rather than a police station. Maybe there’s something else that I didn’t see, it doesn’t seem like enough to warrant blocking the story, but it could be a significant difference.

I haven’t seen any other confirmation of the story of the suicide bomber in Andijon.

noah tucker May 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I take that back–I checked, and AFP’s Almaty bureau has picked up the story of the suicide bomber so it’s in the French press. It lists the official press release as its source, though.

Christian May 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

RE: Why the Uzbek government would block the story: In my (admittedly limited) experience, internet censorship isn’t usually carried out with precision and reason. They’ll block whatever they’re aware of and what they want to in their panic to control information, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Vadim May 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm

The story is pretty much in a full swing on the Internet. The U.S. media still ignores the incident and among all Western media outlets (and not much of those) that reported on it, BBC seems like the most popular one on Twitter and social media.
Closing borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan happens almost every months even without any apparent reason. No surprise that this incident calls for, well, closing the borders. Uzbek govt also turned off mobile phones connections in Andijan and in some other regions of Ferghana Valley.

Nathan May 26, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Eurasianet has a couple interesting stories here and here. I’m skeptical that the link between Swat and Khanabad exists, for what it’s worth.

Matt May 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I agree with Nathan. I’d like to know the names of these “experts” who “see a potential link between the Khanabad firefight and the anti-Taliban offensive being carried out in Pakistan.”

noah tucker May 27, 2009 at 7:20 am

From Nathan’s second link:

“Russian media outlets have indicated the Khanabad attack was the handiwork of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan…”

I generally resist commenting on the situation because of things exactly like this–apparently completely unfounded assumptions that become closer and closer to reports of “facts” the more times they get copied and pasted (and translated). So, did the guys have “IMU” painted on the side of the car?

It reminds me, ironicially, testimony in a former Soviet country a couple of years ago when the government called a witness who claimed that a car with “US Embassy markings on it” drove up and handed people “a bag of money” that apprently must have also had “$” on the outside (just like in cartoons) and the amount of money in it written on the side.

Nick June 3, 2009 at 2:49 am

The border attack was probably a bunch of local Kyrgyz villagers who are tired of being harassed and shot at every day by Uzbek border guards who use the failure to demarcate a clear border as an excuse for extracting bribes. In the weeks before the attack Uzbek border and “anti-terror” police searched local Kyrgyz houses and shot at a car full of Kyrgyz border crossers.

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