Uzbek opposition claims Karimov heart attack

By bne IntelliNews March 25, 2013

bne -

A group of Uzbek opposition activists living in exile has claimed that President Islam Karimov has suffered a heart attack. Government officials have denied the assertion, but it has sparked new speculation about 75-year-old Karimov's health and his potential successor.

The People's Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU) said on March 22 that Karimov had a heart attack on March 19. The PMU, whose leader Muhammad Solih is based in Norway, said the report was from an unnamed correspondent in Uzbekistan, Eurasianet reports.

The PMU added on March 24 that the news had been confirmed by a journalist working for state media, who said that Karimov was seriously ill. Solih said in an interview with the BBC that the information "is very reliable: the information is coming from most secret groups."

However, government officials have denied the reports, with a source in the administration telling RIA Novosti on March 22 that Karimov is "in excellent form as always". Karimov is reported to have taken part in celebrations for the Nauruz new year on March 19.

The president has been in power in Uzbekistan since the country became independent in 1991. Information about his state of health is closely guarded, and Karimov has also avoided appointing a successor.

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