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75,000 Uzbeks flee ethnic riots in Kyrgyzstan

Posted by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM
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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyz mobs burned Uzbek villages and slaughtered their residents Sunday in the worst ethnic rioting this Central Asian nation has seen in 20 years, sending more than 75,000 Uzbeks fleeing across the border into Uzbekistan.

Most of the Uzbek refugees were elderly people, women and children, and many had gunshot wounds, the Uzbek Emergencies Ministry said in a statement carried by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency. It said refugee camps were being set up for them in several areas of Uzbekistan.

Fires set by rioters have destroyed most of Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, and food was scarce after widespread looting. Triumphant crowds of Kyrgyz men took control of Osh on Sunday as the few Uzbeks still left in the city of 250,000 barricaded themselves in their neighborhoods. Fires continued to rage across Osh and shots were heard but police were nowhere to be seen.

The rioting has significant political overtones. Former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in a bloody uprising in April and fled the country. Uzbeks have backed Kyrgyzstan's interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south support the toppled president.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva blamed Bakiyev's family for instigating the unrest, saying it aimed to derail a June 27 constitutional referendum and new elections scheduled for October. A local official in the south said Bakiyev supporters had attacked both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks to ignite the rioting.

Kyrgyzstan hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases, but they are in the north, away from the rioting. Otunbayeva had asked Russia for military help Saturday to quell the rioting, but the Kremlin refused.

But Russia on Sunday sent a battalion of paratroopers — about 300 people — to reinforce security at its air base, the Interfax news agency reported. The base has about 500 personnel, most air force members.

The U.S. Manas air base in the capital, Bishkek, is a crucial supply hub for the coalition fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, but a Pentagon spokesman said the interim government had not asked for any U.S. military help.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan voiced a deep concern about the raging violence and called for the "immediate restoration of order and a respect for rule of law." It said it was discussing humanitarian aid with the interim government.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100613/ap_on_re_as/as_kyrgyzstan_unrest

by on Jun. 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM
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