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Asia Crisis

Kyrgyzstan says killed five Islamist militants

* Dead gunmen were in Taliban-linked group-Kyrgyz security

* Security officer also killed in battle

BISHKEK, June 24 (Reuters) - Kyrgyz security forces killed five militants from an Islamist group linked to Afghanistan's Taliban in a gunfight earlier this week, the security service said on Wednesday.

The Central Asian state, home to a United States military air base since 2001, fought off raids mainly by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 1999 and 2000 and reported smaller scale incidents up until 2006.

Kyrgyzstan's National Security Committee (NSC) said its officers engaged members of the IMU in a shootout on Tuesday on the outskirts of Jalal-Abad, a southern town close to the Uzbekistan border.

"Five bodies of terrorists belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have been found at a house in the suburb of Jalal-Abad," NSC spokesman Ryspek Bakyn uulu said, adding that a large arms cache was found in the same house.

"On the side of our special forces, one person has died and one is in hospital with heavy wounds."

Bakyn uulu said he did not know where the militants had come from but thought they had been trained abroad.

Kyrgyzstan reported the gunfight on Tuesday but did not specify who the dead gunmen were.

The IMU, founded in 1998 and believed to be allied with Afghanistan's Taliban, conducted several raids in Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000.

In 2006, Kyrgyz security forces reported killing several IMU members in a special operation. No attacks involving the IMU members have been reported in the last two years in Kyrgyzstan.

But last month, Uzbekistan's security forces blamed the IMU for attacks in Khanabad, a small town close to the Kyrgyzstan border, in which one policeman died and another was injured.

Western security analysts say the IMU was largely wiped out during U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan but some have pointed to a possible rise in its activity in recent months alongside a parallel resurgence in Taliban operations. (Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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