ASHGABAT (AFP) - Turkmen police fought lengthy gun battles with a gang of drug dealers, officials said Sunday, after reports 20 police had been killed in the clashes in the capital of the reclusive Central Asian state. Police clashed with "a criminal group involved in the illegal drug trade" in Ashgabat, the Turkmen foreign ministry said in a rare confirmation of unrest in the ex-Soviet republic, one of the world's most totalitarian regimes. "Special units of Turkmenistan's law-enforcement agencies carried out an operation to seize (the group), as a result of which the above-mentioned criminal group was neutralised," the ministry said. The statement did not give details on the fighting, which the exiled Turkmen opposition described as a bloody clash between government forces and an extremist religious group.