Uzbek President Islam Karimov has died after suffering a stroke at the age of 78, three diplomatic sources told Reuters news agency on Friday, leaving no obvious successor to take over.
The Uzbek government did not immediately confirm the reports. Earlier on Friday it said the health of Karimov, who has been in hospital since last Saturday, had sharply deteriorated.
"Yes, he has died," one of the diplomatic sources said when asked about Karimov's condition.
Long criticised by the West and human rights groups for his authoritarian style of leadership, Karimov had ruled Uzbekistan since 1989, first as the head of the local Communist Party and then as president of the newly independent republic from 1991.
commonspace.eu with reuters news agency
Commonspace.eu political editor comments on the ongoing changes in the upper echelons of the government in Azerbaijan