Asia-Pacific

'Islamist militants killed' in Kyrgyzstan raid

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Reports from Kyrgyzstan say four Islamist militants have been killed in a raid on a hide-out in the southern city of Osh.

Police shot dead three members of a banned Islamist group and a fourth died after detonating a grenade, said the head of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council.

Two officers were injured in a gun battle during the raid, he said.

Osh was the scene of inter-ethnic violence in June during which nearly 400 mostly minority Uzbeks were killed.

The riots followed weeks of political turmoil after the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a mass uprising in April.

The new authorities, led by President Roza Otunbayeva, are attempting to create the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, after elections last month.

However, critics of the new leadership say it lacks authority in the volatile south.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Kyrgyzstan on Friday.

Al-Qaeda links

"The operation has been concluded and a sweep of the area is under way," Marat Imankulov told reporters in the capital, Bishkek.

Mr Imankulov said initial reports suggested the militants may have belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

The IMU is an al-Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian group that now fights alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A local police spokesman told Reuters that the raid could have targeted members of another banned Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which wants to establish an Islamic state across the Middle East and Central Asia.

However the group says it does not advocate violence.