Uzbeks still in fear as Kyrgyz troops patrol streets

Kyrgyz troops patrolled the burned-out streets of the southern city of Osh on Wednesday to maintain a fragile peace between ethnic groups.

Uzbeks still in fear as Kyrgyz troops patrol streets

Kyrgyz troops patrolled the burned-out streets of the southern city of Osh on Wednesday to maintain a fragile peace between ethnic groups after days of fighting that forced tens of thousands to flee.

Kyrgyzstan has been on edge since a revolt in April toppled the president and brought an interim government to power in the impoverished Central Asian state, which hosts U.S. and Russian military bases.

Clashes between its main ethnic groups, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, erupted in the south on June 10 and escalated into the deadliest violence in the former Soviet republic in 20 years.

At least 187 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 wounded, mainly in Osh, a low-rise city of mud-brick houses and crumbling Soviet-era architecture near the Uzbek border.

The violence has subsided in past days but a constitutional referendum expected next week may reignite tensions.

Gunfire echoed in Osh overnight, residents said. "Death to Uzbeks" was painted in red on some house fronts.

Lined with blackened shells of cars and torched shops, Osh appeared devoid of pedestrians. Troops patrolled the area in armoured personnel carriers.

A Kyrgyz soldier at one checkpoint, asked to assess the security situation, said: "Everything is relative."

The interim government has appealed to Russia to send in troops to quell the violence. When Kyrgyz and Uzbeks clashed in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, then-Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent in troops to stop the killing.

Russia has said it does not plan to send peacekeeping troops outside the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a Moscow-led security grouping of ex-Soviet republics.

"We will be guided by the documents governing the CSTO," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.

"Coordinated attacks"

In the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, divided from the troubled south by mountains, flags flew at half-mast in honour of those who died in the ethnic killings.

"Please stop this bloodshed. That's enough blood," said Valery Chulkin, a Bishkek resident. "What's happening in the south is unbelievable."

Uzbeks and Kyrgyz have blamed the attacks on each other. The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said the attacks appear to have begun with five coordinated attacks that then took on an inter-ethnic character.

The new government has accused deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, an ethnic Kyrgyz, of instigating the violence. Bakiyev, in exile in Belarus, has denied any involvement.

The government says it is determined to hold the referendum on June 27 to vote on constitutional changes it says will make Kyrgyzstan more democratic. But if violence flares again, the vote will be next to impossible to organise.

The government has said more violence could occur around Bishkek but says it has enough forces to fend off any attacks.


The events in the south prompted 100,000 refugees to flee into Uzbekistan, most facing severe water and food shortages.

The interim government said the real death toll could be much higher. The International Committee of the Red Cross says many bodies were being buried before being identified.

The U.N. human rights office said it was concerned aid was not reaching some Uzbeks in Osh, partly because the population remained fearful and suspicious of outside assistance.

"It is to the point that they are not letting Kyrgyz doctors in because of the fear between the two groups now," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

"It is vital that aid is not perceived as going along ethnic lines to either side."

On the Uzbek border, hundreds of refugees were stranded, unable to cross after Uzbekistan, struggling with the influx, partially sealed the frontier on Monday.

At one border post, a Reuters photographer on the Uzbek side said some people were being let though a rickety bridge across a river, the bank on the Kyrgyz side littered with rubble.

The U.N. refugee agency said the first two of six flights planned for this week had landed in the eastern Uzbek city of Andizhan, carrying tents and other emergency supplies to the tens of thousands of refugees who have crossed the border.

The UNHCR also plans a separate airlift and deployment of an emergency team in Kyrgyzstan, spokesman Andrej Mahecic said.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Haziran 2010, 16:56