updated 12/7/2006 8:26:33 AM ET 2006-12-07T13:26:33

Kyrgyz investigators have questioned eight U.S. servicemen over the fatal shooting of a Kyrgyz civilian at the U.S. air base in this ex-Soviet Central Asian country, police Thursday.

Alexander Ivanov, a 42-year-old ethnic Russian fuel truck driver, was shot to death by an Air Force security forces serviceman while undergoing a security check at the entry to the Manas Air Base near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. 376th Air Expeditionary Wing which is deployed at the base said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. serviceman had “used deadly force in response to a threat.”

The Interior Ministry said investigators have found a knife at the scene of the incident.

A police official involved in the investigation said on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to media, that the U.S. serviceman who allegedly fired the shots had testified that the slain man brandished a knife, which the officer considered a threat.

Shot twice
The Interior Ministry said Ivanov was shot twice in the chest and died at the base’s emergency room.

Ivanov worked for a company called Aerocraft Petrol Management, which provides fuel services for Kyrgyz and international civilian aircraft at Manas Airport that hosts the U.S. air base.

Manas Airport, Kyrgyzstan’s main civilian airport, said Thursday that the incident happened at a checkpoint controlled by U.S. military personnel.

Under an agreement between the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments, American servicemen deployed in Kyrgyzstan enjoy diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution.

About 1,000 troops are located at the base, which the United States began using following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, primarily in support of military operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan and the United States have struggled this year to agree on terms for the continued leasing of the base, which took on greater importance last year after Uzbekistan evicted U.S. forces.

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