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Islam Karimov: Mystery over fate of Uzbek president

Uzbek President Islam Karimov

Evidence is mounting that one of Asia's most authoritarian leaders, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, has died of an illness after 27 years in power.

Mr Karimov, 78, was taken to hospital last week after a brain haemorrhage but the government has only said that he is critically ill.

On Friday, the Turkish prime minister and international news agencies reported his death as fact.

Uzbek state TV channels have dropped light entertainment programmes.

Mr Karimov has no clear successor. There is no legal political opposition and the media are tightly controlled by the state.

A UN report has described the use of torture as "systematic". Mr Karimov often justified his strong-arm tactics by highlighting the danger from Islamist militancy in the mainly Muslim country, which borders Afghanistan.

Funeral invites

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised meeting of his cabinet that Mr Karimov had died, saying Turkey shared "the pain and sorrow of Uzbek people".

Unnamed diplomatic sources in several countries also announced the death, and even funeral plans, to news agencies.

Reuters quoted three such sources while Associated Press cited an unnamed Afghan official as saying President Ashraf Ghani planned to attend Mr Karimov's funeral on Saturday.

An unnamed Kyrgyz diplomat told AP the country's prime minister had also been invited to the funeral.

Amid the confusion, leading Russian news agency Interfax announced the death, quoting the Uzbek government - only to withdraw its report later, citing a "technical error". BBC reports