At least four people, including two civilians, a police officer and a suspected Islamist prison escapee, have been killed, following a shootout, in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz police killed a suspected Islamist militant escapee from prison on Thursday in a shootout in which a policeman and two civilians also died on the outskirts of the capital Bishkek, the Interior Ministry said.
The incident followed two similar gun battles between police and militants in July, a sign of deteriorating security in the Central Asian nation that hosts a Russian military air base.
A ministry spokesman said police had killed Altynbek Itibayev, who had been convicted of murder and faced more charges, after he barricaded himself inside an apartment on the top floor of a three-storey building and shot at policemen.
Two civilians were killed by gunshots after stepping out on the balcony of a next-door apartment, he said, adding that one policeman was killed in the shootout.
The ministry said earlier on Thursday that Itibayev was being assisted by two people but the spokesman said they had not been killed or detained and may have fled.
Itibayev was freed from prison in a 2014 amnesty then detained again in July after security forces killed six gunmen in clashes in Bishkek. He was charged with being a member of the same militant group as the dead gunmen.
Together with eight other detainees and convicts, he escaped from prison on October 11 when the group killed three prison guards. Five escapees were detained within hours, while Itibayev and three others remained on the run.
Police killed two of the other escapees and detained a third one earlier on Thursday.
Three of the five men detained immediately after escaping have died in police custody, two of them of heart ailments, the state agency overseeing prisons and detention centres said. The third death was under investigation.
Kyrgyzstan’s former Soviet overlord, Russia, operates a military air base in the Central Asian state, fearing an advance of militant Islam in the region.
Also closely watching is China, whose restive Xinjiang region borders Kyrgyzstan and which is present in several Kyrgyz industries, including energy and mining.