UPDATE 2-Kyrgyzstan buries its dead, U.S. halts troop flights

* Thousands attend mass funeral near Kyrgyz capital

* U.S. stops all military passenger flights through Manas

* Cargo, humanitarian, fuelling flights continue

(Adds call on Bakiyev, Putin meeting, details)

By Maria Golovnina
ATA-BEIIT, Kyrgyzstan, April 10 (BestGrowthStock) – Kyrgyzstan on
Saturday buried several of those killed in the overthrow of the
government, while security concerns prompted the U.S. military
to halt troop flights from its base in the Central Asian state.
Up to 10,000 mourners gathered on the edge of the burned-out
Kyrgyz capital at a mass funeral to commemorate at least 78
people who died in protests this week during which troops fired
on crowds besieging the presidential headquarters.
“Those who died on April 7 are the heroes of Kyrgyzstan,”
Roza Otunbayeva, the interim government chief, told the crowd.

“It was our duty to establish justice. Those who are being
buried here today are all our children, the children of
Kyrgyzstan.”

Mourners carried coffins draped in the red-and-yellow Kyrgyz
national flag and clutched portraits of the dead at a memorial
complex built in honour of the victims of mass executions
ordered by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the 1930s.

Relatives lowered bodies into 16 graves lined in rows and
joined hands in prayer, while mullahs chanted in Arabic.

Omurbek Tekebayev, a key figure in the provisional
government, told the crowd: “Our people defeated the dictator.”

Mourners showed little sympathy for President Kurmanbek
Bakiyev. Kuat Niyazbekov said his brother had died in the
uprising.

“We don’t even know what really happened on the square, what
his last minutes of life were like,” he said. “We can’t forgive
a president like that.”

The uprising in Kyrgyzstan, where a third of the 5.3 million
population lives below the poverty line, forced the president to
retreat to his stronghold in the south of the country and has
raised doubts over the future of the U.S. air base near Bishkek.

Bakiyev’s refusal to step down remains the main question as
tenuous calm returned to the streets of Bishkek, still strewn
with rubble and broken glass after days of violent clashes.

Otunbayeva has offered Bakiyev safe passage out of
Kyrgyzstan if he steps down. His exact whereabouts are unclear.

“We would really like to start negotiations. We will solve
everything peacefully,” Keneshbek Dushebayev, head of the new
state security service, told reporters.
All flights carrying troops from the Manas base, a vital cog
in supplying NATO operations in Afghanistan, were suspended from
Friday evening, a spokesman for the base said. Troops are using
alternative routes in and out of Afghanistan.

“While normal flight operations at Manas were resumed on
Friday, a decision was taken Friday evening to temporarily
divert military passenger transport flights,” the base’s
spokesman, Rickardo Bodden, told Reuters by telephone.

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said it was a security-related decision made by the base
commander on the ground. [ID:nLDE638198]

CENTRAL TO WAR EFFORT

Pentagon officials say Manas is central to the war effort
against the Taliban, allowing around-the-clock flights in and
out of neighbouring Afghanistan. About 50,000 troops passed
through last month alone.

Members of Kyrgyzstan’s self-proclaimed new leadership have
said the U.S. lease on the base could be shortened.

Russia, which sees former Soviet Kyrgyzstan as part of its
traditional sphere of interest, also has an air base in the
country. A Russian official, who declined to be named, said on
Thursday that the country should have only a Russian base.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin became the first world
leader to recognise the authority of the self-proclaimed
government, just hours after it took power, raising suspicions
that Moscow had played a role in the events.

Otunbayeva has described Russia as a key ally and publicly
thanked Putin for his support. Almazbek Atambayev, deputy head
of the new government, met Putin in Moscow on Saturday but there
were no details of the talks.

She has accused Bakiyev’s supporters of stoking a violent
response. In the southern city of Jalalabad, 200 of his
supporters gathered near a billboard picturing a smiling Bakiyev
shaking hands with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

A crowd of 5,000 ethnic Uzbeks, who comprise a large part of
the population in southwest Kyrgyzstan, rallied several
kilometres away, saying they supported Kyrgyz unity and opposed
any attempt to divide the north and south of the country.
Investing Basics

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Jalalabad; Writing
by Robin Paxton and Maria Golovnina; editing by Myra MacDonald)

UPDATE 2-Kyrgyzstan buries its dead, U.S. halts troop flights