Kyrgyz interim government leader Rosa Otunbayeva speaks to the media in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday. AP photo
Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday withdrew a demand for foreign peacekeepers to calm deadly ethnic unrest in the country’s south as some reports suggested that the rioting was deliberately provoked.
The southern part of the impoverished Central Asian nation has been convulsed by days by rioting targeting minority Uzbeks, leaving the country’s second-largest city, Osh, in smoldering ruins and prompting tens of thousands of Uzbeks to flee for their lives to neighboring Uzbekistan, sparking fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Interim President Roza Otunbayeva insisted again Tuesday that supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev stoked the conflict, according to a report by the Associated Press. “Many instigators have been detained and they are giving evidence on Bakiyev’s involvement in the events. No one has doubts that he is involved,” she said.
From self-imposed exile in Belarus, Bakiyev denied any ties to the violence Monday.
An Uzbek community leader in Osh also accused Bakiyev’s family of fomenting the ethnic violence that has killed more than a hundred and created thousands of refugees.
“This was a planned action against Uzbeks,” Dzhalaldin Salakhitdinov, president of the Uzbek cultural center in Osh, told Bloomberg by telephone. “We supported the interim government but the old officials who used to enjoy life and who lost power didn’t want any stability. They wanted the interim government to lose its authority so they created provocation against Uzbeks.”
Rupert Collie, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva there was evidence the violence was coordinated and began with five simultaneous attacks in Osh by men wearing balaclavas, a type of ski mask. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the fighting “appears to be orchestrated, targeted and well-planned” and urged authorities to act before it spread further.
No need for foreign troops
Otunbayeva said foreign forces were no longer needed as the unrest between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the cities of Jalalabad and Osh was abating after five days of bitter clashes.
Uzbekistan accepted tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees who crossed the border but has now shut the frontier, leaving thousands waiting to cross in desperate conditions, Agence France-Presse correspondents reported.
“There is not a need to send peacekeeping forces,” Otunbayeva told a news conference. “We hope to deal with this situation with our own forces,” she added, saying the clashes were now “on the wane.”
Otunbayeva had appealed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last weekend to send military forces, saying the situation in the south of the country was out of control. Russia turned down the Kyrgyz plea for troops, saying the violence is an internal issue.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday said the death toll from the clashes had reached 171, with nearly 1,800 injured. Observers believe the real figures to be much higher, with communities burying bodies before the deaths had been registered. In addition, many Uzbek refugees arriving in Uzbekistan had gunshot wounds.
The situation at the border crossing with Uzbekistan remained dire, with thousands waiting in the hope of being let over the barbed-wire border. But the Uzbek side was only allowing the occasional wounded person through.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Bloomberg stories by the Daily News staff.