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Kyrgyzstan announced Thursday it has detained the brother of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whom the government has accused of orchestrating the Uzbek ethnic violence that killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands in June.
The arrest comes as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) voted Thursday to send a 52-member unarmed police force to southern Kyrgyzstan amid recent reports that ethnic Uzbeks are suffering abuse at the hands of Kyrgyz authorities.
Police captured Akhmat Bakiyev in a raid Wednesday night near Jalal-Abad, the Bakiyev family’s political stronghold in southern Kyrgyzstan. Police said he immediately confessed to a role in last month’s violence, the Associated Press reports. Found with him were a pistol and ammunition, a wig, and a false mustache and beard.
The rioting that erupted in June between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad in southern Kyrgyzstan is estimated to have killed at least 300 people, and possibly many more, and displaced 400,000. Ethnic Uzbeks were attacked, and Uzbek neighborhoods burned down. The interim government blames Mr. Bakiyev, who fled to Belarus after a bloody revolt in April, for instigating the violence.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that the fighting resulted in an ethnic cleansing of Uzbeks from the city of Osh that could affect the demographics and internal stability of Kyrgyzstan for years to come. The country is home to a US air base that is a critical link in the NATO supply route to Afghanistan, as well as Russian military installations.
The Associated Press reports that the arrest of Akhmat Bakiyev, who was described as a “shadow governor” of Jalal-Abad during the tenure of his brother, is part of a government campaign to round up associates of the former president suspected of having a hand in the violence. Among them are:
Continued reports say ethnic Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan are facing torture, abuse, and illegal detainment at the hands of the Kyrgyz security forces. The United Nations human rights commissioner said Tuesday that her office had knowledge of beatings, torture, and illegal detentions leading to forced confessions, reports Reuters. Victims are too afraid of reprisals to seek help from the authorities, according to her office. At least 1,000 people have been detained in Osh and Jalal-Abad since the rioting last month.
And on Wednesday, French aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres also said Uzbeks are being mistreated by security forces, and stopped from fleeing to neighboring Uzbekistan, reports the Associated Press. The aid group says security forces are posted near hospitals to deter Uzbeks from seeking needed medical treatment, and the group has treated people who had been beaten.
Eurasianet reports that the Kyrgyz press is publishing racist and nationalist narratives of the violence that could harden feelings of hatred between the ethnic groups.
The OSCE’s police mission to southern Kyrgyzstan is expected to last about four months, reports Reuters.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the mayor of Osh, in an interview, denied the reports of abuse of Uzbeks and said the citizens of Osh did not want an international force to be deployed. The OSCE force would focus on training local police.