Report: Police Dead in Turkmenistan Shootout

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ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) — A large gunfight erupted overnight in the capital of Turkmenistan, in a rare instance of violence in the authoritarian Central Asian nation, witnesses said Saturday.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, citing unidentified sources, reported that gunshots were exchanged in Ashgabat between members of a radical Islamist group and security forces. The foreign-based opposition web site Gundogar quoted witnesses in the city as saying at least 20 security personnel were killed.

Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic blessed with large gas and oil reserves, is a small central Asian country bordering Iran and Afghanistan to the south. Its population is overwhelmingly Muslim but Islamic violence is virtually unheard of, as the government has vigorously stamped out all opposition.

Local people told The Associated Press that armored personnel carriers were circulating in the area of the clash. Streets in the district were closed off for much of the day, but witness said the scene returned to normal later.

State media have not reported on the incident.

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