Uzbekistan mourns as longtime ruler Karimov buried in hometown

The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan mourned on Saturday as its deceased president, Islam Karimov, was laid to rest in his hometown, Samarkand, at a renowned necropolis where his parents are buried.

Karimov, who led the former Soviet republic for a quarter of a century, succumbed on Friday to complications from a stroke at the age of 78, according to Uzbek state news agency UzA.

The authoritarian leader was buried in a traditional Muslim ceremony at Samarkand's Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, which dates to the Middle Ages.

The funeral was organized by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who is widely believed to be Karimov's most likely successor.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended the funeral and offered his condolences on behalf of the Russian people.

"In these days of mourning, we are with you," Medvedev said in an address, assuring that ties between the countries would remain strong, according to comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.

Uzbekistan has remained largely within Russia's sphere of influence since Soviet times but has also provided crucial footing for the US war in Afghanistan, allowing US forces to use a major Uzbek airbase.

US President Barack Obama noted that the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence was this week.

"At this challenging time of President Islam Karimov's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the people of Uzbekistan," Obama said.

Kremlin adviser Yury Ushakov told TASS that he hoped the situation within Uzbekistan will remain stable.

Uzbekistan borders the troubled states of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and has maintained stability through pressure and violence.

Karimov permitted almost no opposition since taking power upon Uzbekistan's independence from the Soviet Union. He has no clear successor.

There have been reports of infighting among Karimov's inner circle. In recent days, the Uzbek government denied reports that a possible successor, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Rustam Azimov, had been placed under house arrest.

The speaker of Uzbekistan's Senate, Nigmatilla Yuldashev, is expected to temporarily assume Karimov's role until a popular election.

Last update: Sat, 03/09/2016 - 15:47
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