Unrest has broken out in several jails in Kyrgyzstan, as officials reportedly attempted to move a high-profile inmate and reassert control. Shots have been heard in Moldovanovka jail near the capital Bishkek and unconfirmed reports on Kyrgyz media said some prisoners had been killed.
Guards were withdrawn from Moldovanovka last month after an MP and three others were shot dead during a visit. They had been investigating protests over poor living conditions. The apparent spark for Tuesday's unrest was the removal of criminal boss Aziz Batukayev from Moldovanovka jail.
They [soldiers] beat him in front of the jail - apparently to intimidate other inmates - and took him to a SNB [security service] prison in Bishkek," Mr Batukayev's sister Yakha told Reuters news agency.
She said about 30 criminals were removed from Moldovanovka ahead of what a security service official said was a "planned special operation".
Protests then broke out at jails in Moldovanovka, Petrovka, Novo-Pokrovka and Jalalabad, co-ordinated through inmates' mobile phones, an official from Moldovanovka jail told the French news agency AFP.
A resident in the area said gunfire at Moldovanovka lasted about 30 minutes. It was surrounded by dozens of troops, reports said.
Witnesses saw at least two ambulances leaving the compound.
Moldovanovka prison was also the scene of bloodshed last month, when MP Tynychbek Akmatbayev visited to investigate unrest over poor living conditions. Akmatbayev, two deputies and prison system director Ikmatullo Polotov were subsequently killed by the inmates. Prison guards were pulled out of Moldovanovka and other jails in Kyrgyzstan as a result. Prison officials returned to some of the prisons, but Moldovanovka and several others have been in the control of inmates since, Reuters said.
It is not clear why Akmatbayev was killed. Some analysts believe his death may have been linked to mafia rivalries in Kyrgyzstan.
His brother, Rysbek Akmatbayev, faces charges of ordering a mafia-related murder. He has led calls for Kyrgyz Prime Minister Felix Kulov to step down as a result of his brother's death, reports BBC news. I.L.