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Uzbekistan strongman dies

MOSCOW – Uzbekistan will bury President Islam Karimov Saturday, as his death plunges the Central Asian nation into the greatest period of uncertainty in its post-Soviet history with no clear successor to the iron-fisted ruler.

Karimov, 78, was pronounced dead late Friday after he suffered a stroke last weekend and fell into a coma, the authorities said, following days of speculation that officials were delaying making his death public.

The funeral for the strongman – who dominated the ex-Soviet nation for some 27 years – will be held in his home city of Samarkand, central Uzbekistan, Saturday morning and the country will begin three days of mourning.

State television in the tightly-controlled nation showed soldiers loading a coffin onto a plane for what it described as Karimov’s final journey to Samarkand. (AFP)