Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov has died, Turkey says – despite no official confirmation from the Uzbek government.
Mr Karimov, 78, was taken to hospital last week after a brain haemorrhage. However, the Uzbek government has only said Mr Karimov is critically ill.
On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a televised meeting Mr Karimov had died.
Mr Karimov had governed Uzbekistan in an authoritarian manner since 1989.
He has no clear successor. There is no legal political opposition and the media is tightly controlled by the state.
A UN report has described the use of torture as “systematic”. Mr Karimov has often justified his strong-arm tactics by highlighting the danger from Islamist militancy.
“Uzbek President Islam Karimov has passed away. May God’s mercy be upon him, as the Turkish Republic we are sharing the pain and sorrow of Uzbek people,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a cabinet meeting broadcast live.
Long before Mr Yildirim’s statement, rumours were circulating that Mr Karimov had already died. He had not appeared in public since 17 August.
Earlier on Friday, Reuters news agency said three unnamed diplomatic sources had confirmed Mr Karimov’s death.
An opposition website, Fergana, reported that preparations were under way for his funeral in his home town, Samarkand.
Samarkand’s airport has been closed to scheduled flights on Saturday.
How rumours grew:
Sunday: President Karimov “receiving inpatient treatment”, Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers announces
Monday: Daughter Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva writes on Instagram that he suffered a brain haemorrhage
Wednesday: Government cancels some celebrations for independence day on Thursday
Thursday: Mr Karimov’s independence day speech read out on state TV by a presenter
Friday: Government says Mr Karimov’s condition has sharply deteriorated
Analysis – Steve Rosenberg, BBC News, Moscow
In recent days rumours have been swirling about President Karimov’s condition and even his whereabouts.
Islam Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan for more than 27 years. He came to power when his country was still part of the Soviet Union.
And he’s stayed in power by creating what human rights groups call one of the most repressive regimes in the world. It’s believed that thousands of his opponents have been put in prison; torture is endemic in the justice system and freedom of speech suppressed.