He has left the helm. Leading his Central Asian country since 1989, Islam Karimov, who suffered a stroke last weekend, has died, according to diplomatic sources. The Uzbek government had noted earlier that Karimov’s condition had deteriorated, and while a funeral is reportedly being planned in his hometown of Samarkand, there has been no official confirmation of his demise. Without a named successor, a small group of senior officials are expected to appoint someone to the top post. But failure to agree could destabilize Uzbekistan, which has already become a target for Islamic extremists.