Video: Violent protests lead to coup in Kyrgyzstan
Transcript of: Violent protests lead to coup in Kyrgyzstan
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There's news from overseas tonight . There's been a change of government , and a bloody one at that, in a country not that many Americans can find on a map of the world , but it's a key US ally in the war in Afghanistan . It appears that protesters in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan have overthrown the government after riot police opened fire on them earlier today. NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell explains what's happening there tonight .
ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: It was open warfare in the streets of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 's capital. Thousands of protesters, many armed only with stones, seizing an armored vehicle , storming government buildings , being fired on by government troops and firing back. The opposition says as many as 100 protesters were killed, hundreds more wounded, a rebellion against the tightening grip of political and economic controls finally triggered by a
200 percentincrease in charges for heat and electricity. By the end of the day , protesters had freed their leaders from jail and taken over state-run TV . Robin Forestier-Walker is in Bishkek for Al Jazeera .
Mr. ROBIN FORESTIER-WALKER (Al Jazeera): Up until this point the government had been clearly in control of the media. But now that opposition supporters have taken control of one of the main TV stations , it looks as if the opposition has the upper hand at this stage.
MITCHELL: The principal target of the bloody uprising, hard-line President Kurmanbek Bakiev , a US ally of convenience. That's because this airbase at Manas is the main transit point for US and NATO troops and supplies into Afghanistan . In fact, when Bakiev 's government threatened to evict the US from the base last year, the Obama administration nearly quadrupled its annual rent to $60 million , on top of $90 million in aid. Without this base, the US would have to rely heavily on land routes, including the torturous and dangerous Khyber Pass .
General BARRY McCAFFREY, Retired (NBC News Military Analyst): I think the airbase is absolutely vital. We put 15,000 troops a month through that base -- along with the French and the Spanish, I might add -- supporting the ongoing operations in Afghanistan .
MITCHELL: Even so, only last month the State Department 's annual human rights report accused Bakiev 's government of arbitrary killing, torture, trafficking in persons and child labor, among other abuses. Tonight the rebels say that the president has fled the capital and that they have control of the city. US officials say it would not be surprising if they are dealing with a new government , And it could be a government no longer willing to let the United States use that airbase. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell in our Washington newsroom tonight . Andrea , thanks for that.