The secular Muslim state of Uzbekistan has expelled US eight nationals on charges of attempting to convert local Uzbeks to Christianity, a state-run website said on Tuesday.
Posing as businessmen or English language teachers, the eight "carried out unlawful missionary activity to attract Uzbek students to protestant dogma," the Russian-language gorizont.uz website said. "Notably, the foreigners were fluent in Uzbek and called themselves with Uzbek names such as Jahongir, Husan, Jasur, Farhod," the report said.
The US Embassy in Tashkent declined to comment citing citizens' privacy issues. All religious missionary work is banned in former Soviet republic, which is Central Asia's most populous country with 28 million inhabitants, 90 percent of whom are Muslims.
News of the expulsion came just weeks after a grand jury in the US state of Alabama indicted an Uzbek national who overstayed his student visa on charges of threatening to kill President Barack Obama.
The United States has had uneasy relations with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who has served as head of state since 1990 and has never won an election deemed free or fair. Washington has praise Uzbekistan for its cooperation in NATO operations in neighbouring Afghanistan, but also expressed repeated reservations about the former Soviet republic's human rights record.
Local authorities argue that Uzbekistan's security is directly threatened by Islamists and the work small religious sects that destabilise society.
Uzbekistan has deported one US citizen and seven South Koreans on similar charges since 2010.