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Azeri Rioters Clash With Police in More Unrest in Northwest

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Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Clashes resumed between security forces and residents in Azerbaijan’s northwestern Ismayilli district as riots entered a second day in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to protect the local governor’s office from a group of attackers, the Azeri service of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty said today.

The clashes were sparked by an incident yesterday between an employee of the Ciraq hotel and a group of Ismayilli residents, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The employee caused a traffic accident while allegedly drunk, beating a local man and shouting insults at Ismayilli residents, according to the statement.

In retaliation, residents burned the hotel and cars parked outside, with police preventing their attempt to torch a house owned by the son of the local governor, Nizami Alakbarov, according to the statement. Four people, including three police officers, were injured. The hotel employee and another man involved in the incident were arrested, the authorities said.

Thousands Riot

As many as 3,000 people took part in the rioting, the APA news service said, citing local police. The main opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat said the traffic accident was caused by a son of Labor and Social Protection Minister Fizuli Alakbarov. The local governor is the minister’s brother, and the hotel was run by the Alakbarov family, according to Musavat.

The governor denied that his nephew played a role in sparking the events, Media Forum news website reported. Nizami Alakbarov said the incident involved several people, including the hotel’s manager, before “some unhealthy forces” led the protesters toward his house, according to Media Forum.

The residents are demanding the governor’s resignation, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty said.

Ismayilli is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of the capital, Baku, near the Russian border. It’s the second time in less than a year that Azeris rioted against local authorities. Similar protests in the northern Quba District last March resulted in the dismissal of the local governor.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net