Kyrgyz refugees find borders shut as bodies litter streets
Uzbekistan ordered today its frontier closed to an exodus of refugees fleeing deadly violence in Kyrgyzstan where government forces were accused of helping gangs slaughter ethnic Uzbeks.world Updated: Jun 15, 2010 00:00 IST
Uzbekistan ordered on Monday its frontier closed to an exodus of refugees fleeing deadly violence in Kyrgyzstan where government forces were accused of helping gangs slaughter ethnic Uzbeks.
Bodies littered the streets of the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh where fresh gunfire rang out, and more fighting was reported in the nearby city of Jalalabad. Scores are reported killed in four days of clashes.
With estimates of up to 100,000 people already inside Uzbekistan, the Central Asian state's Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Aripov said the border would be shut, despite pleas from aid groups and the UN to leave it open.
"Today we will stop accepting refugees from the Kyrgyz side because we have no place to accommodate them and no capacity to cope with them," he said.
He said Uzbekistan needs international humanitarian aid to cope. "If we have the ability to help them and to treat them of course we will open the border" again, he added.
Aripov said Uzbekistan had registered 45,000 adults from Kyrgyzstan, while another official said there were 65,000 adults in Uzbekistan's Andijan region alone and the UN's refugee agency said it was sending aid for 75,000.
Ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks have flooded into Uzbekistan in the four days of bloodshed around Osh and Jalalabad, which has left at least 124 dead and 1,685 wounded, the health ministry said.
The violence exploded Friday in Osh when ethnic Kyrgyz gangs began attacking shops and homes of ethnic Uzbeks, igniting tensions between the two dominant groups in the region that have simmered for a generation.
The unrest comes barely two months after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown in a popular uprising. Bakiyev's stronghold is in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Ethnic Uzbeks said many more had been killed and accused government forces of helping Kyrgyz mobs in their deadly rampage.
Charred corpses lay unattended in a burned out ethnic Uzbek shop in Osh and the streets were strewn with shell cases and wrecked cars.
A military helicopter flew over the city dropping leaflets calling for calm. But intermittent gunfire was heard while new violence was reported further north in Jalalabad.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged Kyrgyz authorities to act firmly, saying the violence appeared to be "orchestrated, targeted and well-planned."
She urged both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to accept refugees.
Kyrgyz news agency AKIPress said 2,000 people had gathered in the main square in Jalalabad and that cafes and stores were ablaze. It also said 150 to 200 youths were marching around threatening to shoot Uzbeks.
In Osh, Uzbek men with makeshift weapons stood guard outside their homes while women and children cowered in basements.
Dildor Dzhumabayev, a 38-year-old ethnic Uzbek, said people were gunned down by armed personnel carriers that were used to clear the way for mobs on the streets.
An AFP journalist was shown video footage of the burials of dozens of bullet-ridden bodies that residents said they had filmed since Friday.
"There are at least 1,000 dead here in Osh. We have not been able to register them because they turn us away at the hospital and say it is only for Kyrgyz," Isamidin Kudbidunov, 27, told AFP.
The crisis has prompted growing international alarm, with both the United States and Russia having military bases near the capital of the former Soviet republic.
China and Turkey sent planes to pick up their nationals in Kyrgyzstan.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday she was "very concerned" and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his worry at the extent of the violence on Sunday.
Kyrgyzstan's interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, on Saturday appealed to Russia to help quell the violence. The Kremlin has so far sent paratroopers to reinforce its base and agreed to send humanitarian aid.
But the prospects for foreign intervention grew on Monday with the Russian-led regional body, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), holding emergency talks on a deployment of a special force to the region.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, "The current situation in Kyrgyzstan is intolerable".
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) dismissed suggestions by some Kyrgyz officials that the situation was beginning to stabilise.
"We're far from seeing the end of this crisis," said Pascale Meige Wagner, the ICRC's head of operations for Central Asia and Eastern Europe.