The official death toll from four days of clashes neared 100 people, though the unrest seemed so widespread that the figure is likely to go far higher. Reports from the region said bands of ethnic Kyrgyz were seeking out Uzbeks, setting fire to their homes and killing them.From the BBC, "Deadly ethnic unrest escalates in southern Kyrgyzstan." Excerpts:
Thousands of Uzbeks have fled to the nearby border with Uzbekistan, and the authorities were said to have lost control of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city.
On Saturday, the fragile Kyrgyz provisional government asked neighboring Russia to send in peacekeeping troops, but Russia, which has a small military base in the north and has been a political patron of this former Soviet republic, said only that it would consider the request.
Witnesses speak of armed Kyrgyz men shooting ethnic Uzbeks and setting property alight.Finally, from CNN, "Armed ethnic clashes rage in Kyrgyzstan." This story cites the highest death toll yet. An excerpt:
Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have been fleeing the city of Osh, where a BBC correspondent reports hearing gunfire ... Kyrgyzstan's interim government extended a state of emergency to cover the entire southern Jalalabad region, as ethnic clashes spread there from neighbouring Osh.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April and now lives in Belarus, has denied accusations from the government that he is involved in the unrest.
Without international assistance there are fears the interim authorities in Kyrgyzstan will struggle to contain the conflict.
Armed groups are fighting each other for control of the main hospital in Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan, Russia Today reported, as ethnic clashes continue in the strategically important central Asian country.
At least 80 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured since Thursday, Kyrgyz and Russian news agencies reported, citing health ministry officials.
According to one report, the numbers were much higher. Local officials in Osh, the city worst affected by the violence, said at least 500 ethnic Uzbeks had been killed, according to Ferghana.ru, an independent news agency. CNN has not independently confirmed the number of dead.
Update (10:45 AM, June 14, 2010) -- From Xinhua, "Russia sends troopers to Kyrgyzstan to protect Russian facilities: Interfax." An excerpt:
A battalion of Russian troopers have been sent to Kyrgyzstan to protect the Russian facilities in the Kant military base, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday.And from the WSJ, "Kyrgyzstan Violence Threatens Region." An excerpt:
Three Ilyushin Il-76 military cargo aircraft, carrying humanitarian aids and the paratroopers from the 31st landing brigade of the Russian Air-Borne Force, have landed at the Russian air base on Sunday afternoon, a military source told Interfax.
"The task of the battalion is to guard Russian military facilities and guarantee the security of Russian servicemen and their families," the source said.
The battalion was transferred to Kant air base due to the aggravation of the situation in south Kyrgyzstan, he added.
The paratroopers were armed with regular small arms and ammunition, and took the necessary food supplies, the source noted.
Ethnic violence flared out of control in this strategically important Central Asian country on Sunday, threatening to destabilize what has been a conduit for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Kyrgyzstan's government, for the first time since the country declared independence in 1991, appealed to Russia for help in restoring order. The Kremlin responded by saying it was sending 300 paratroopers—but only to protect its own military base near Bishkek, far from the fighting in the country's south. Russia otherwise appears wary of being drawn into the Kyrgyz conflict.
Kyrgyzstan's own security forces have failed to contain a rising tide of ethnic violence in the south, where more than 100 people have been killed since fighting began Thursday night, according to the country's health ministry. The officials say the death toll could be considerably higher, as the current count includes only the dead at hospitals and morgues.
Around 75,000 people have now fled fighting into neighboring Uzbekistan, Russia's official news agency said, citing the Uzbek government.
Ethnic clashes — mainly of Kyrgyz attacking Uzbek minorities — spread Sunday through Kyrgyzstan's second-largest province, Jalal-Abad, government officials said. Crowds were setting fire to Uzbek homes and businesses, according to local news reports.
The ferocity of the fighting heightens fears of wider havoc in Central Asia, whose hitherto peaceful former Soviet republics have been a base for resupply of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. The State Department Sunday called for a quick restoration of peace and order, and endorsed efforts by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to find a solution.
Postscript (July 1, 2010) -- After being removed temporarily at the request of the U.S. Peace Corps, this post has been republished. According to Kyrgyzstan's president, the death toll from the violence in Osh likely exceeded 2,000. Please see current updates elsewhere on this blog.