Opposition Ousts Kyrgyzstan President

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MOSCOW - Kyrgyzstan's president fled the capital city of Bishkek on Wednesday, after violent protests by opposition forces overthrew the government.

At least 68 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in the fighting, according to Kyrgyzstan Health Ministry spokeswoman Elena Bayalinova.

On Wednesday, riot police fired into crowds of demonstrators protesting government brutality and corruption, The New York Times reported.

Eyewitnesses said government security forces appeared to panic. By Thursday morning, opposition forces were in control of most government buildings.

Social Democrat Party chairwoman Roza Otunbayeva, who headed the coalition of opposition groups, will lead a six-month transitional government, which she said will "listen to all the sides and solve everything."

Otunbayeva, who is a member of parliament, served as foreign minister for two years in Bakiev's government.

"Power is now in the hands of the people's government," Otunbayeva announced in a televised broadcast on Wednesday evening.

"We must restore a lot of things that have been wrongly ruled," she said.

According to media reports, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev - who had been asked to sign a formal letter of resignation - fled to the south of the country with a number of government officials.

"The new government would like to locate him to negotiate terms of his resignation," Otunbayeva told reporters.

Last spring, opposition leaders were angered when the Obama administration courted Bakiyev in order to retain rights to Manas, a U.S. military base nicknamed "The Gateway to Afghanistan." 

The base is used as a major transit point for troops and supplies to Afghanistan. President Obama sent a letter to Bakiyev last spring affirming him, according to The New York Times.

Baykiyev's son, Maksim, viewed by the opposition as following in his father's steps, was scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday for talks with Obama administration officials. The State Department canceled the meetings.

On Wednesday, U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks announced that flights to and from Manas had been suspended, and the military would use other routes to transport troops and equipment to Afghanistan for now.

The transitional government said it would decide over the next several weeks whether to allow the base to continue operating.

The U.S. embassy in Bishkek has been closed until further notice, according to CBS correspondent Charlie Wolfson.

Russia reportedly would like to see the base closed and has been currying favor with the opposition coalition to that end, The New York Times reported.


The New York Times and CNN contributed to this story.

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