BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – An explosion rocked the center of Kyrgyzstan's capital Tuesday ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, slightly wounding two police officers, a day after security forces battled Islamic militants in a restive southern city.
Security officials said the attacks appear to be part of systemic attempt to foment turbulence in the Central Asian nation by means of an Islamist-inspired terror campaign.
Authorities said the explosion took place in the early morning outside the venue of a high-profile trial against top officials of the recently deposed government.
The blast, which formed a deep crater in the road, was set off outside an entrance used by defendants in the trial. The Health Ministry said two police officers were lightly injured.
Clinton is due to travel to the country Thursday. Her visit comes amid U.S. attempts to buttress stability in the troubled former Soviet nation, which hosts a key air transit facility used a jumping-off point for troops traveling to and from nearby Afghanistan.
Tensions are high in the Central Asian nation amid sensitive political bargaining over the formation of a new government and renewed violence in the restive south.
Clashes between security forces and Islamic militants broke out Monday in the city of Osh. Officials said the militants were planning a series of terrorist attacks in the country.
Three insurgents were shot and killed by government forces during the gunbattle, while another militant blew himself up, officials said.
Security Council Secretary Marat Imankulov said three suspects detained after the battle were members of the Islamic Movement of Turkestan.
Kolbay Musayev, deputy chairman of the National Security Service, said Tuesday that the militants had selected 33 targets for terrorist attacks, including eight in the capital.
"Thanks to active efforts of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, their plans were defeated," he added.
Musayev said the terrorist groups included citizens of several countries, including Russia and Uzbekistan.
A Kyrgyz court is hearing the case against 28 former officials, including the self-exiled former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, on charges they were complicit in ordering troops to open fire on demonstrators during protests in April that brought down the government.
Lawyers have complained that they and their clients have been subjected to threats and intimidation.
Authorities announced after the blast that the trial had been indefinitely suspended.