Islam Karimov, whose harsh and ill-tempered rule governed Uzbekistan for a quarter-century, is to be buried in his home city of Samarkand.

The death of 78-year-old Karimov, the only president Uzbekistan has had since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, was announced by the government on Friday after he suffered a stroke. The end of Karimov's monolithic presidency leaves no apparent successor, as well as concern that the ensuing political uncertainty could leave an opening for Islamic extremists to coalesce.

On Saturday, thousands of Uzbeks lined streets in Tashkent as a cortege carried Karimov's casket to the airport, from which it was to be flown to Samarkand, an ancient Silk Road city renowned for its Islamic architecture.