Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov has died, Turkey says – despite no official confirmation from the Uzbek government.
Mr Karimov, 78, was taken to hospital last week after a brain haemorrhage. However, the Uzbek government has only said Mr Karimov is critically ill.
On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised meeting Mr Karimov had died.
Mr Karimov had governed Uzbekistan in an authoritarian manner since 1989.
He has no clear successor. There is no legal political opposition and the media is tightly controlled by the state.
A UN report has described the use of torture as “systematic”. Mr Karimov has often justified his strong-arm tactics by highlighting the danger from Islamist militancy.
“Uzbek President Islam Karimov has passed away. May God’s mercy be upon him, as the Turkish Republic we are sharing the pain and sorrow of Uzbek people,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a cabinet meeting broadcast live.
Uzbekistan opens up on president’s health
Profile: Islam Karimov
Long before Mr Yildirim’s statement, rumours were circulating that Mr Karimov had already died. He had not appeared in public since 17 August.
Earlier on Friday, Reuters news agency said three unnamed diplomatic sources had confirmed Mr Karimov’s death.
An opposition website, Fergana, reported that preparations were under way for his funeral in his home town, Samarkand.
Samarkand’s airport has been closed to scheduled flights on Saturday.
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