Kyrgyz violence: Kyrgyzstan struggles to quell ethnic massacres

Kyrgyzstan has been unable to control the Kyrgyz violence, which has now killed more than 100 and wounded more than 1,000, though the death toll is likely to climb higher.

D. Dalton Bennett/AP
Ethnic Uzbeks gather near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in southern Kyrgyzstan, on Saturday, to seek refuge in Uzbekistan from the Kyrgyz violence against the minority Uzbek community.

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Ethnic fighting in southern Kyrgyzstan continued for a fourth day Sunday, spreading to villages where Kyrgyz mobs were reportedly killing members of the Uzbek minority and burning their houses.

Despite declaring a state of emergency and ordering troops to shoot rioters, the interim government has been unable to control the Kyrgyz violence, which has now killed more than 100 and wounded more than 1,000, though the death toll is likely to climb higher. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva has blamed ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled the country amid violent riots in April, for instigating the violence.

The government declared an around-the-clock curfew in southern Kyrgyzstan Sunday in an attempt to quell the violence, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. It also called up military reservists under the age of 50.

But the move did not appear to be working.

The Associated Press reports that Kyrgyz mobs killed 30 Uzbeks Sunday in the village of Suzak near Jalal-Abad, while at least one other Uzbek village was attacked, with casualties unclear. Uzbeks also ambushed and took hostage about 100 Kyrgyz men on a road near Jalal-Abad, and a mob of hundreds of Uzbek men rioted in a nearby village.

The violence began on Thursday night in Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city, Osh, which is situated in the southern part of the country, which has a history of ethnic tension and violence.

Heavily-armed gangs reportedly rampaged through the city, burning Uzbek neighborhoods. The AP report that most of Osh is now destroyed from fires and looters. Eurasianet reports that eyewitnesses saw gunbattles and rioting men seizing vehicles and equipment from security forces. Residents of the devastated city are now experiencing food and water shortages, and hospitals are running out of supplies.

The riots spread to the southern city of Jalal-Abad Saturday, where mobs attacked a university and police station and seized an armored vehicle from local security forces, according to the AP. (The blog Registan has published a map showing the region where the riots are taking place.)

Blogger Tolkun Umaraliev, based in Bishkek, calls the situation a “massacre” of Uzbeks, and levels his frustration at the government for its incapability to stop the violence.

Thousands of mostly Uzbek refugees have fled to the border with Uzbekistan, attempting to cross. The BBC shows some of the terrified refugees in a video report from the border.

Kyrgyzstan is home to a US air base near the capital of Bishkek in the north, which serves as a key link in the supply chain for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The ex-Soviet state also hosts a Russian base. Former president Bakiyev reportedly angered Moscow by backing out of a deal to close the US base in return for increased Russian funds, reports The New York Times. He has strong support among the Kyrgyz of the south, while Uzbeks have mainly endorsed the provisional government.

Russia and the United States have in recent years been jockeying for influence in Kyrgyzstan, and deploying soldiers there could help solidify Russia’s foothold. Russia has frequently chafed at the American military presence in what it considers its sphere of influence.

Russia appeared to support the protest movement that led to Mr. Bakiyev’s ouster, and it has sought closer relations with Kyrgyzstan’s new authorities.

The interim president asked Russia for help in dealing with the cascading violence Saturday, but Moscow deferred, calling the violence an “internal conflict” and saying only that it would consult with members of the regional Collective Security Treaty Organization.

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