Uzbeks flee southern Kyrgyzstan
Last Updated: Monday, June 14, 2010 | 6:16 PM ET
The Associated Press
About 100,000 minority Uzbeks fleeing Kyrgyz mobs in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan massed at the border with Uzbekistan Monday in the deadliest ethnic violence to hit this Central Asian nation in 20 years.
An Uzbek community leader, Jallahitdin Jalilatdinov, said the Uzbeks were fleeing mobs made up of people from Kyrgyzstan's majority ethnic group, the Kyrgyz, who were rioting in Osh, five kilometres from the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.
Fires raged in the city for a fourth day on Monday.
The official count was 124 dead and nearly 1,500 injured since the violence began last week, but Jalilatdinov, who heads the Uzbek National Centre, said at least 200 Uzbeks had already been buried.
The Red Cross said its delegates saw about 100 bodies being buried in just one cemetery.
Uzbeks make up 15 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's five million people, but in the south their numbers rival those of the ethnic Kyrgyz.
The United States, Russia and the United Nations worked on airlifts of humanitarian aid while neighbouring Uzbekistan hastily set up camps to handle the flood of hungry, frightened refugees.
Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks are fleeing Kyrgyzstan in an effort to escape violent, deadly clashes. (CBC)The International Committee of the Red Cross was appealing to donors to raise money for the care of 100,000 people in the coming month.
"The situation in Jalal-Abad [Kyrgyztstan] has worsened considerably over the past 24 hours. It is very dangerous," said ICRC spokesman Pierre-Emmanuel Ducruet, who was able to reach the outskirts of the city this morning.
The interim government, which took over after former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted by a mass revolt in April, has been unable to stop the violence. It has accused Bakiyev's family of instigating it to halt a planned June 27 vote.
Uzbeks have backed the interim government while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported the toppled president.
From his self-imposed exile in Belarus, Bakiyev has denied any role in the violence.
The government said Monday it had arrested a "well-known person" suspected of stoking the violence but gave no further details.
Individuals from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan suspected of having been hired by supporters of Bakiyev to instigate the violence were also detained, government spokesman Farid Niyazov said.
Jalilatdinov told The Associated Press on Monday that at least 100,000 Uzbeks were awaiting entry into Uzbekistan while another 80,000 had already crossed over the border.
An AP reporter saw hundreds of Uzbek refugees stuck in no man's land at a border crossing near Jalal-Abad while an AP photographer saw hundreds of refugees in a camp on the Uzbekistan side.
New fires raged Monday across Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city of Osh, which is near the border with Uzbekistan. Food and water were scarce as armed looters broke into stores, stealing everything from televisions to food.
Humanitarian workers unload bags of flour as they prepare humanitarian aid for people from Osh, who are displaced in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Monday. (Maxim Shubovich/Associated Press) In the mainly Uzbek district of Aravanskoe, an area formerly brimming with shops and restaurants, entire streets have been burned to the ground. In one still smouldering building, an Associated Press photographer saw the charred bodies of three people.
No police or troops were seen on the streets, though the interim government said some of the improvised checkpoints dotted around the city of 250,000 were theirs.
Violence spread to villages and towns around Osh, local residents said.
Mukaddas Jamolova, a 54-year-old housewife from Kara-Su, near Osh, said she saw looters burn down many houses of ethnic Uzbeks. She said her house was not burned down, but the family can't flee to Uzbekistan, as they fear armed attackers.
"We can't go anywhere, we have a curfew, nobody's letting us out," Jamolova told The Associated Press on the phone.
As the clashes continued, desperately needed aid began trickling into the south. Several planes arrived at Osh airport with urgently needed medical supplies from the World Health Organization. Trucks, protected by a tank and an armoured personnel carrier, carried the supplies into the city centre.
The U.S. had a shipment of tents, cots and medical supplies ready to fly to Osh from its Manas airbase in the capital of Bishkek, the U.S. Embassy said.
The U.S. and Russia both have military bases in northern Kyrgyzstan, away from the rioting. Russia sent in an extra battalion to protect its airbase.With files from CBC News
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