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Kyrgyz Opposition Controls Government Building

Kyrgyzstan's opposition controls government headquarters, death toll rises to 68

Kyrgyzstan's opposition has taken over the government headquarters, the site of deadly clashes with police, and appears to be in control of the capital Thursday.

Kyrgyzstan Interior Minister Dead, After Run in With Angry Mob
People carry an injured man near the main government building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Wednesday,... Expand
(Azamat Imanaliyev/AP Photo)
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No police guard the building, and hundreds of jubilant but calm residents are standing outside and walking in.

Scars of the fighting, though, are everywhere, and the Health Ministry says the death toll rose overnight to 68, with 400 people still hospitalized.

The government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev appears to have fled.

Opposition leader Rosa Otunbayeva has declared herself head of an interim government of this Central Asian nation housing a key U.S. air base.

She is to address parliament Thursday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — Opposition leaders declared they had seized power in Kyrgyzstan, taking control of security headquarters, a state TV channel and other government buildings after clashes between police and protesters killed dozens in this Central Asian nation that houses a key U.S. air base.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power in a similar popular uprising five years ago, was said to have fled to the southern city of Osh, and it was difficult to gauge how much of the impoverished, mountainous country the opposition controlled Wednesday.

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"The security service and the Interior Ministry ... all of them are already under the management of new people," Rosa Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister who the opposition leaders said would head the interim government, told the Russian-language Mir TV channel.

The opposition has called for the closure of the U.S. air base in Manas outside the capital of Bishkek that is a key transit point for supplies essential to the war in nearby Afghanistan.

A senior U.S. military official said Kyrgyzstan officials halted flights for 12 hours on Wednesday at Manas air base. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the base closed around 8 p.m. local time and was expected to reopen around 8 a.m. Thursday.

Other military officials said the suspension was not expected to impact military operations because fewer flights were scheduled during overnight hours.

During the day, protesters who were called into the streets by opposition parties stormed government buildings in Bishkek and battled with police amid volleys of tear gas. Groups of elite officers then fired with live ammunition.

The Health Ministry said 40 people died and more than 400 were wounded. Opposition activist Toktoim Umetaliyeva said at least 100 people were killed by police gunfire.

Crowds of demonstrators took control of the state TV building and looted it, then marched toward the Interior Ministry, according to Associated Press reporters on the scene, before changing direction and attacking a national security building nearby. They were repelled by security forces loyal to Bakiyev.

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