Angered at what they saw as votes rigged to elect supporters of President Askar Akayev, protestors stormed administration buildings in several southern cities following the March 13 elections.

Four policemen were reported beaten to death in the towns of Jala-abad and Osh, both about 250 km southwest of the capital Bishkek, as protesters clashed with police, an official from the opposition Popular Movement said.

However, Kyrgyz State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov denied the report, saying that there were no casualties, only several wounded policemen and civilians.

“The opposition, those who organise these rallies, profit by spreading such lying rumours, to excite people even further,” Ibraimov said on a Russian radio station.

In Jala-abad, groups of protestors set fire to a police station and stormed the regional governor’s offices, as around 10,000 people rallied outside to demand the release of protestors arrested earlier.

Around 2,000 protestors armed with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails and using a bus as a battering ram broke into the police compound and freed around 30 arrested protestors.

Hundreds of protestors then re-took the governor’s office, hanging banners from the windows demanding President Akayev’s resignation as they had done for two weeks prior to Sunday’s arrests.

Police opened fire to warn off the crowd, injuring one protestor in the leg.

Russian media reported there had been deaths on both sides from the clashes.

Interfax news agency, citing law enforcement sources in Jala-abad, said the toll could be as high as 10.

Sunday’s events came amid a wave of unrest in the republic over parliamentary polls that went to a second round on March 13, which the opposition has accused Mr Akayev’s administration of rigging.

Mr Akayev has repeatedly warned of the possibility of civil war in the event of attempts at a Western-backed “people power” uprising of the kind seen in two other former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine, within the last 18 months.