January 29, 2020 / 11:30 AM / 22 days ago

Uzbek police fight stabbings by blunting blades

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbek police say they are fighting a wave of stabbings by blunting the tips of knives used by traders in the main markets of the eastern city of Andijan.

More than 350 knives were blunted and 18 confiscated in the raid on two open-air markets, police said in an online report.

It showed men with kitchen knives lining up to have their knives blunted by a machine, as well as police examining the knives of a local baker. It was unclear whether souvenir knives on sale at the markets - Andijan is a center of traditional knife-making crafts - were included.

“Preemptive measures continue to be taken to prevent crime,” the police report, posted this week, said.

Andijan lies in the Central Asian state’s densely populated Ferghana valley. In 2005, security forces crushed armed protests in the city, initially blaming Islamist extremism but later acknowledging poverty played a role.

Murder rates in Uzbekistan have dropped under President Mirziyoyev, who came to power in late 2016 and has taken steps to boost economic growth and create jobs by opening up the secretive state.

But stabbings, which are often spontaneous and result from ordinary quarrels, grab public attention. Last October, for example, a trader bled to death in broad daylight at a market near the capital Tashkent after being stabbed in an argument with fellow market workers.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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