BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Government supporters and opposition demonstrators clashed Tuesday in the Kyrgyz capital, throwing bottles, lobbing rocks and beating one another with sticks.
Interior Ministry troops tried to separate the protesters, setting off what appeared to be smoke bombs that released tear gas.
Three ambulances could be seen carrying injured people away from the square. Russian news agencies, quoting the Kyrgyz Health Ministry, said six people had been hospitalized, including four with gunshot wounds.
The clash erupted as the two camps held rival rallies in the center of Bishkek on the sixth day of anti-government protests aimed at forcing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to resign.
Earlier Bakiyev angrily rejected an overnight move by opposition lawmakers to adopt a new constitution.
"Some lawmakers tried to usurp power last night," Bakiyev told a news conference. "Without getting a quorum, in the still of the night and secretly from the people they went ahead, ignoring the (current) constitution and the law." A quorum is considered to be 51 lawmakers.
The opposition argues that the 38 signatures garnered overnight were enough to pass the draft constitution because they represent a majority of the 75-seat legislature. Three more legislators signed on to the constitution on Tuesday.
"Bakiyev wants a civil war," said opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev. "We don't need a man like him. He has to leave."
Bakiyev came to power on pledges of political reform after the March 2005 uprising that ousted longtime leader Askar Akayev. But his rule has been marred by slayings of prominent people, prison riots, economic ills and battles for control of lucrative businesses.
About 7,000 anti-government protesters resumed the opposition rally in Bishkek's central square, outside the presidential headquarters, known as the White House.
After the fight between rival camps, soldiers wearing helmets and wielding shields formed ranks and began moving toward anti-government protesters, apparently trying to push them from the square.
Bakiyev threatened to use force against the protesters if they attempt to seize government buildings.
"If they try to seize the White House, the state television or other government buildings, we'll have to use force," he said in televised remarks.
Bakiyev's supporters were also out in force. About 1,000 protesters gathered at the parliament building for a pro-government rally, inside a cordon of armed police officers and soldiers. They were joined by 19 pro-government lawmakers.
"The new amendments are illegal," lawmaker Kamchibek Tashiyev told the crowd. "We support the constitution and the president."
Several held a large Soviet flag with a hammer and a sickle.