Kyrgyz attack Uzbek university in Jalalabad

Thousands of Kyrgyz and Uzbeks clashed in southern Kyrgyzstan, leaving one person dead and 30 injured.

Kyrgyz attack Uzbek university in Jalalabad

Thousands of Kyrgyz and Uzbeks clashed on Wednesday in southern Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia's most ethnically divided corner, leaving one person dead and 30 injured.

Tensions have been simmering in Kyrgyzstan's south, at the heart of the Ferghana Valley, a cauldron of ethnic and tribal tension in the heart of Central Asia.

Kyrgyz special forces troops shot into the air in a bid to prevent thousands of Kyrgyz from storming an Uzbek-funded university in the southern city of Jalalabad.

"We condemn all attempts to foment violence and sow the seeds of discord among our people, especially between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz," acting President Roza Otunbayeva told reporters in the capital, Bishkek.

"We hope that common sense will prevail and that we shall be able to prevent a conflict," she said.

Kyrgyz protesters had gathered to demand the arrest of a local Uzbek leader, Kadyrzhan Batyrov, who they said had called for the creation of an autonomous Uzbek district in Kyrgyzstan.

They pelted the University of the Peoples' Friendship with stones.

Shortly afterwards, a Reuters witness at the scene heard shots fired from within the university and about 2,000 ethnic Uzbeks came out and shouted to the crowd of Kyrgyz: "We shall never give up our university".

The health ministry said one person had been killed and another 30 injured but it was not immediately unclear who was behind the violence or the ethnicity of the victims. Two of the injured were in a grave condition.

After a tense stand off with Uzbeks, thousands of Kyrgyz moved to the central square in Jalalabad.

A Reuters witness at the scene said groups of Uzbeks and Kyrgyz were arming themselves with sticks and clubs. In Uzbek areas, locals were gathering in groups of 100 to 200 people. Some Kyrgyz protesters wielded petrol bombs.

Any worsening of tensions in the south would be of concern to the United States and Russia, which are competing for influence in Central Asia.

Ethnic Kyrgyz make up 69.6 percent of the 5.3 million population of Kyrgyzstan. Uzbeks comprise 14.5 percent and Russians 8.4 percent.

The mix is more evenly matched in the south. Uzbeks comprise about 40 percent of the 1 million population of Jalalabad region and about 50 percent in the neighbouring region of Osh.

Jalalabad was the scene of two days of fierce clashes between supporters of former President Bakiyev and backers of the country's interim government last week. At least two people were killed and dozens wounded in the turmoil.

The interim government said Bakiyev's supporters had attempted a coup. Jalalabad is the home region and power base of Bakiyev, who fled Belarus after he was ousted.


Reuters

Last Mod: 19 Mayıs 2010, 14:12
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