More forces to Kyrgyz south after 'shoot-to-kill' order

Kyrgyzstan will send reserve forces and volunteers to its troubled south on Sunday after a third night of gun battles raised the death toll.

More forces to Kyrgyz south after 'shoot-to-kill' order

Kyrgyzstan will send reserve forces and volunteers to its troubled south on Sunday after a third night of gun battles took the death toll to 80 in the Central Asian state's worst ethnic violence in two decades.

The move comes as the interim government of Kyrgyzstan granted "shoot-to-kill powers" to its security forces after deadly riots between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement it would send a "volunteer force" to the south because the situation in Osh and Jalalabad regions -- strongholds of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev -- remained "complex and tense".

A Reuters correspondent said gunfire could be heard from an Uzbek neighbourhood of Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, where homes and businesses have been burned to the ground, but the shootouts had become less frequent than 24 hours ago.

The violence is the worst since Bakiyev was toppled in riots in April. Interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva has accused supports of Bakiyev, who is in exile in Belarus, of stoking ethnic conflict in the former president's southern base.

Supporters of Bakiyev briefly seized government buildings in the south on May 13, defying central authorities. The Otunbayeva government has only limited control over the south, which is separated from the northern capital Bishkek by mountains.

The latest clashes are the worst ethnic violence since 1990, when then-Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent in Soviet troops after hundreds of people were killed in and around Osh.

Kyrgyzstan appealed on Saturday for Russian help in quelling the riots, which the Health Ministry says have killed 80 people -- 72 in Osh and eight in Jalalabad -- and wounded 1,066.

Russia said it would not send in peacekeepers alone but would discuss the situation on Monday within a Moscow-led security bloc of former Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was following the situation closely and had discussed it with the leaders of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the two powers bordering Kyrgyzstan, the Kremlin said.

"Organised"

Kyrgyzstan, which won independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has been in turmoil since the revolt that toppled Bakiyev on April 7, kindling fears of civil war.

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan intertwine in the Fergana Valley. While Uzbeks make up 14.5 percent of the Kyrgyz population, the two groups are roughly equal in the Osh and Jalalabad regions.

Gas has been shut off to Osh and some neighbourhoods are without electricity. Otunbayeva also warned of a humanitarian crisis as food supplies in besieged regions are running out.

Residents of Osh have fled to the nearby border with Uzbekistan. Local media reports said at least 1,000 people, mainly women and children, had made it across the border.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry has expressed "great concern" about the events in Osh, saying there were "reasons to conclude that such events are organised, managed and provocational".

Russia offered humanitarian aid and sent in a helicopter with doctors to fly out some of the wounded, the Kremlin said. The European Union said it was sending its special representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel.

The United States said it supported "efforts coordinated by the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to facilitate peace and order", and said it urged its citizens in the country to maintain contact with the U.S. embassy.

Renewed turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has fuelled concern in the United States. Washington uses an air base at Manas in the north of the country, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply its forces occupying Afghanistan.

Agencies

Last Mod: 13 Haziran 2010, 18:34
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