More than 23 people have died and 340 been injured in ethnic fighting which broke out last night in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Several buildings across Osh, the country’s second-largest city, were ablaze Friday morning, after witnesses reported hearing sustained gunfire beginning late Thursday. Gangs of young men armed with metal bars and stones attacked shops and set cars alight in the city.
Gunfire continued Friday, although it was not clear who was shooting, residents said.
The country’s provisional government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, has struggled to keep order in the volatile Central Asian state since seizing control during riots that ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev earlier this year. The central Asian country’s interim government declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and sent in more than seven armoured cars to try to end the fighting between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the city.
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– 23 Killed, 300 Wounded in Kyrgyz Riots (Voice of America)
Azimbek Beknazarov, the deputy Kyrgyz leader, said that apart from a few clashes, the situation now seemed under control.
“Everything began yesterday at about 11 pm, and, unfortunately, despite the curfew established, at present skirmishing is going on in the city,” he said.
More than 1000 young men came out onto the streets last night, many of them carrying guns or iron bars, and began to smash the windows of cafes and restaurants, and set fire to cars and buildings throughout the city.
Southern Kyrgyzstan was the power base of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who deposed in April as president in a revolt that raised concern among regional players Russia, China and the United States.
Osh is located in the fertile Fergana Valley, where Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan meet. Roughly half of the population is Uzbek and in 1990, hundreds of people were killed in ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the city.
Paul Quinn-Judge, Central Asia Director at the International Crisis Group, who is based in Bishkek, said that the riots were the first serious test the new government had faced.
“The bottom line is that the political government has been in power long enough to get the basic mechanisms in place. They’ve got to show they can clear this up quickly. They’ve got to show that they can diffuse the tension.” Kyrgyzstan’s strategic importance for the US comes from its Manas Air base, close to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, which is a crucial supply hub for the war in Afghanistan.
by Richard Orange
Published: 11:14AM BST 11 Jun 2010
Source: The Telegraph