(Reuters) - Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, an authoritarian ruler who has warned of a militant Islamist threat to the whole Central Asian region, has died after suffering a brain haemorrhage, three diplomatic sources said on Friday.
Karimov has run the ex-Soviet republic of 32 million - the region’s most populous - with an iron grip for 27 years and speculation is rife over who will succeed him.
Below are some of the key figures who analysts say may play a crucial role in deciding who runs post-Karimov Uzbekistan.
* A 59-year-old former regional governor has been prime minister since 2003 and is personally in charge of agriculture, a key sector of the economy. Many Central Asia experts see him as a possible successor to Karimov.
* As prime minister, Mirziyoyev has been a pliant subordinate of Karimov and at the beginning was seen as a transitory figure who would not be in his post for long. With time, Karimov has learned to respect him as a talented manager.
* Opposition media reports say that in dealings with his own subordinates, Mirziyoyev can fly into a temper and will resort to swearing and curses to make his point.
* A fluent English speaker who headed a local bank at the age of 33, the 57-year-old finance minister is seen as relatively liberal-minded and competent.
* A government member since the late 1990s and always linked to the finance portfolio, Azimov has been a key figure leading uneasy talks with international financial institutions critical of Uzbekistan’s slow market reforms and heavy state interference in the economy.
* Analysts say Azimov is a much stronger politician than Mirziyoyev and is likely to be better equipped to deal with the outside world.
But a key question is likely to be who can secure the backing of the security services and the army.
* The 72-year-old has run the powerful SNB security service for 21 years and is widely seen as Uzbekistan’s main kingmaker.
* He was a key figure in suppressing an uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andizhan in 2005 when 187 protesters were killed, according to official information.
* Inoyatov’s influence spreads far beyond the SNB and he is actually in control of the army and police, many of whose senior officers also come from his feared secret service.
* “His word will be the final one in deciding who will lead Uzbekistan after Karimov,” said Uzbek journalist Alexei Volosevich, adding that Inoyatov had not displayed any presidential ambitions himself.
* His support has been particularly crucial for the political fortunes of Mirziyoyev, Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov told independent news agency www.fergananews.com.
* Karimov’s younger daughter is also expected to have a say in deciding who will succeed her father, analysts say.
* The influence of Uzbekistan’s 38-year-old ambassador to Paris-based UNESCO has risen in the past couple of years after Lola’s elder sister Gulnara - an outspoken and extravagant socialite and fashion designer - was reported to have fallen out with her father and was placed under house arrest.
* In a rare contact with mass media, Lola said in a written reply to questions from the BBC in 2013 that she had no political ambitions and declined to say who she thought could succeed her father. She also said at the time that she had not been on speaking terms with her sister for more than 12 years.
* Little is known about Lola’s husband. She said in the BBC interview that Tillyaev was “a businessman who has never taken part in Uzbekistan’s political life”. She said he was a shareholder in a trade and transport company and owned a small chain of shops in Geneva.
* Sources in Tashkent told Reuters that Tillyaev’s transport company supplies goods from China to the largest wholesale market in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.
* The couple and their children moved to Switzerland after selling almost all of their property in Uzbekistan, Lola said in the 2013 interview.
* Deliberately distancing themselves from Uzbek politics, Lola said her husband “had never been linked to the cotton business, or oil and gas, or any other national natural resources”.
Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth