Hundreds of people rallied Sunday in this Central Asian capital in support of a top Kyrgyz politician who claims he was wounded in an attack linked to contested election results.
Protesters backing Kamchibek Tashiyev, the leader of a nationalist party, demanded the resignation of Kyrgyzstan's security chief, Keneshbek Duishebayev, whom Tashiyev blamed for an alleged attack Saturday at his home in a suburb of Bishkek, the capital.
The crowd of some 700 people in Bishkek's central square also demanded the release of official results for the Oct. 10 parliamentary elections.
Preliminary results gave a surprise first place to Tashiyev's Ata-Zhurt party amid claims of widespread fraud from two rival parties, but government officials have not officially confirmed the election results.
The country's Oct. 10 election, which will produce a new and empowered parliament that can approve a government and appoint a prime minister, came after a year of political turbulence and deadly ethnic violence.
In April, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted after mass protests over stagnant living standards and corruption. Many top officials from his government then formed Tashiyev's Ata-Zhurt party, which denies any affiliation with the ousted president, who is now living in exile.
In June, mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz attacked minority Uzbeks in the south, leaving more than 400 people dead, mostly Uzbeks, and forcing 400,000 others to flee.
Many Kyrgyz officials have since claimed that Uzbeks incited the violence, and this has become a rallying cry for nationalist Kyrgyz forces in the south, the home base of the ousted Bakiyev. Uzbeks have mostly supported the interim government that overthrew him.
At the rally Sunday in Bishkek, Kyrgyz nationalists from the Ata-Zhurt party unfurled large banners showing the mutilated bodies of fellow Kyrgyz whom they claim were killed by Uzbeks in June.
But the chairman of their party, Sadyr Japarov, urged the crowd to avoid further violence.
"You have the right to hold peaceful protests and no one will be able to take that away from you. But we, the leaders of the Ata-Zhurt party, we call on you to obey the law," Japarov said.
Tashiyev claimed Saturday that he was attacked in an assault orchestrated by Duishebayev, head of the National Security Service, in a bid to undermine the election results.
Kyrgyzstan's Security Service declined to comment on the claim. The prosecutor's office said Tashiyev may have been hurt in a "scuffle provoked by his bodyguards."
The Central Election Commission said Sunday it was not yet ready to confirm the final Oct. 10 results because many local polling stations had made mistakes in tabulation that officials in Bishkek needed to "bring into line with the law."
Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous, impoverished former Soviet republic of 5 million people, borders China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
It hosts the Manas U.S. air base, a vital supply stop for the Afghan war effort, as well as a Russian air base. Tashiyev has spoken out against the U.S. base while government officials have agreed to let it stay for now with increased rent.
(This version CORRECTS last name of security chief to Duishebayev.)