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1 serviceman dead in raid to seize ex-Kyrgyz president

MOSCOW (AP) — A serviceman died and at least 35 other people were injured as special forces in Kyrgyzstan tried to arrest the Central Asian country's former president on corruption and abuse of office charges, the Kyrgyz Health Ministry said early Thursday.

The raid at ex-president Almazbek Atambayev's residence south of Kyrgyzstan's capital of Bishkek began Wednesday evening and continued through the night after the first attempt to detain Atambayev failed and a throng of his supporters reportedly barricaded themselves inside.

The national security committee denied reports that Atambayev's supporters seized some special forces members in the initial arrest attempt. The Health Ministry said 36 people were taken to hospitals, including a special forces member who was shot from inside the residence and died.

The raid raises concerns about political stability in Kyrgyzstan, which borders China and hosts a Russian military air base. Local news reports said some people were wounded by weapons fired by special forces in the raid, including a journalist. The state security committee said only plastic bullets were fired.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament in June rescinded the immunity that Atambayev had been accorded as a former president, opening him to potential prosecution. Since then, supporters have kept watch outside his residence in Koi-Tash, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Bishkek, expecting an attempt to arrest him.

He is accused of a range of crimes, including corruption and the expropriation of property. Atambayev, who was in office from 2011 to 2017, has said the charges were concocted by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who was once his protégé.

Atambayev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, suggesting that he enjoys Kremlin support. But Putin later said Russia was committed to working with Jeenbekov. Kyrgyzstan, once hailed as an "island of democracy" in post-Soviet Central Asia, has repeatedly been shaken by political upheavals. Its first two presidents after independence were both driven from office by riots.

This story corrects the incumbent president's first name to Sooronbai.

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