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You're reading: Rioters attack government buildings in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Protesters clashed with police and tried to break into a building housing the parliament and government offices in Kyrgyzstan's capital Wednesday, during a rally to demand the resignation of the prime minister and other top officials.

Police
officers protecting the government building, known as the White House,
used dogs and smoke bombs to disperse a group of young men who attempted
to scale the gates.

Around 1,000 people gathered in the center of
the city for a rally, organized by nationalist politicians Sapar
Zhaparov and Kamchibek Tashiyev, ostensibly to demand the
nationalization of a controversial gold mine in the east of the Central
Asian nation.

Kyrgyzstan, a country of 5
million people on China’s mountainous western border, has come to
prominence in recent years because it hosts a U.S. air base used to
support military operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan
is currently governed by a broad parliamentary coalition presided over
by Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev. Zhaparov and Tashiyev are
members of a virulently nationalist opposition party, Ata-Zhurt, which
draws the bulk of its support from the south of the country, which was
the scene of deadly ethnic clashes in June 2010.

The politicians have in recent months come out in increasingly vocal opposition to the government.

Wednesday’s
gathering was nominally intended to voice discontent over the Kumtor
gold mine, which has been the source of a series of toxic spills in past
years.

Critics have alleged that Toronto-based Centerra Gold,
which is developing Kumtor, has used accounting tricks to reduce its tax
liabilities. The company has denied the allegation.

Centerra says its project has generated $1.9 billion in benefits for Kyrgyzstan, including $620 million in taxes. Kumtor accounts for 12 percent of the economy.

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