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27-May-2016 13:23

Further details of his death were not immediately available from the mostly opaque country, where media freedom and human rights have been harshly repressed.

FILE - In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, Uzbek President Islam Karimov leaves a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia.

His successor is likely to come from Karimov's closest circle, where dissenting minds have never been tolerated," said Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

Uzbekistan celebrated its Independence Day on Thursday, and it was widely assumed that the government would not break any news until after the festivities.

Given the lack of access to the country it's hard to judge how powerful the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan might be, but the group has over the years been affiliated with the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group and has sent fighters abroad.

Under the constitution, if the president dies his duties pass temporarily to the head of the senate until an election can be held within three months.

A national newsreader has delivered a televised Independence Day speech on behalf of ailing President Islam Karimov, who remains hospitalized in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, with a suspected brain hemorrhage.

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file) Karimov's death raises concerns that Uzbekistan could face prolonged infighting among clans over leadership claims, something its Islamic radical movement could exploit.