Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov died Friday, the government announced, ending over a quarter of a century of his rule in the Central Asian nation, with no clear successor in place, sources from Vietnam News/AFP.
"Dear compatriots, it is with huge grief in our hearts that we announce to you the death of our dear president," a state TV presenter said, reading an official statement.
Authorities said Karimov, 78, was pronounced dead at 8:55 pm local time (1555 GMT) after he suffered a stroke over the weekend and fell into a coma, following days of speculation that authorities were delaying the announcement of his death.
The president’s funeral will be held in his home city of Samarkand, central Uzbekistan, on Saturday morning according to his wishes as the country begins three days of mourning, the statement said.
Karimov’s body was to be flown to Samarkand airport, which on Saturday will be closed to all flights except those with special permission.
From there, the funeral cortege is to set off at 6 am local time, with people able to pay their last respects from 9 am on a city square close to the cemetery where he will be buried, Russian news agencies reported, citing local officials.
Loyalist Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev is heading the organisation committee for the funeral, suggesting that he could be in line to take over long-term from Karimov.
Under Uzbek law, senate head Nigmatulla Yuldashev should now become acting president until early elections are held.
Karimov’s youngest daughter Lola wrote on Facebook "he has left us... I am struggling for words, I can’t believe it myself".
Uzbek state television switched to footage of folk musicians playing traditional instruments against a black background after announcing his death.
Karimov was one of a handful of Soviet leaders who continued to be in power after their homelands gained independence from Moscow in 1991.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Karimov’s death "a great loss for the people of Uzbekistan" in a telegram to interim leader Yuldashev, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is set to jet in for the funeral.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon confirmed he will attend while Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was reported to also be planning to go.
Ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Kazakhstan all said they were sending delegations headed by their prime ministers.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who appointed Karimov to head the former Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan in 1989, told Interfax news agency that Karimov was "a competent man with a strong character".
Kazakhstan’s leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled for as long as Karimov said: "I grieve for the loss of a friend whom I worked with side-by-side for 30 years."-