Kyrgyz fear spread of violence

Interim government says deadly fighting in country's south could move to capital.

    The southern city of Osh has seen five days of violence leading to scores of deaths [AFP]

    However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it believes more people have died in the fighting.

    'Massive amounts buried'

    Aigul Sigulina, a spokeswoman for the ICRC in Bishkek, told Al Jazeera: "We think that the number of people killed is higher than reported in the media because we have seen massive amounts of people buried.

    IN DEPTH

     

      Q&A: Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence
      In pictures: Kyrgyzstan's ethnic clashes
      Focus: Kyrgyzstan's hollow revolution
      Profile: Roza Otunbayeva
      Interview: Kurmanbek Bakiyev
      Inside Story:
      Russia's growing influence
      Behind Kyrgyzstan's unrest
     

    Videos:

      Kyrgyzs reservist called in
      Uzbeks fear spreading violence
      Uzbeks flee Kyrgyzstan violence
      Fears over ethnic unrest
      Kyrgyz revolt backfires on economy

    "Medical workers have been attacked and beaten, ambulances have been damaged. Even our operations sometimes had to stop because we were going to a hospital and were blocked by shootings and we had to go back." 

    The unrest erupted in the city of Osh on Thursday, with mobs of Kyrgyz men attacking ethnic Uzbeks and torching their homes, witnesses said.

    Jallahitdin Jalilatdinov, who heads the Uzbek National Center, said on Monday that more than 200 Uzbeks have since been killed in the rioting in the Central Asian nation.

    Residents of Osh have began holding mass funerals for ethnic Uzbeks killed in the fighting.

    The funerals came as the UN called for a humanitarian corridor to be established on the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border where tens of thousands of minority-Uzbeks are crossing to escape the violence.

    Some estimates put the number of people who have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan at 100,000.

    However, the government has withdrawn its appeal for foreign peacekeepers to control the situation amid fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

    Witnesses and officials have repeatedly claimed that the fighting had not erupted spontaneously between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks but had been organised by a third party.

    'Organised unrest'

    The interim government has accused Maxim Bakiyev, the son of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the deposed Kyrgyz president, of financing the clashes.


     Kyrgyzstan's 5.3 million population is mainly made up of Kyrgyz (70%) ethnic Uzbeks (15%) and Russians (8%).

     About 50% of the Osh region's 1.2 million inhabitants are ethnic Uzbeks.

     About 40% of a population of one million in Jalal'abad region are ethnic Uzbeks.  

    "This was all well organised, and the 'wallet' of these riots is the son of the former president, Maxim Bakiyev, who started financing the riots back in April," Atambayev, the deputy interim leader, said at a news conference.

    The younger Bakiyev is said to have paid $10 million to organise the fighting. He was arrested by UK authorities on Monday as he landed at Farnborough airport in a private aircraft.

    The Kyrgyz government said that it would seek his extradition.

    Despite the unrest, Roza Otunbayeva, the interim government's leader, said that the violence would not prevent a key constitutional referendum on June 27 from taking place.

    Her assurances came after the UN and EU called on Kyrgyzstan not to allow the unrest in Osh and Jalal'abad in the south to derail the referendum and subsequent parliamentary polls.

    The proposed referendum follows the toppling of Kurmanbek Bakiyev as president in April in violent protests that led to the deaths of about 90 people.

    Bakiyev, whose stronghold is Osh, subsequently fled to Belarus. He is wanted on corruption charges amongst others.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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