OSH, Kyrgyzstan: At least 12 people were killed when violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Osh on Friday, stoking fears of ethnic conflict and prompting the interim government to declare a state of emergency. Hundreds of youths fought with steel bars and set shops and cars ablaze in what the interim government, led by Roza...
OSH, Kyrgyzstan: At least 12 people were killed when violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Osh on Friday, stoking fears of ethnic conflict and prompting the interim government to declare a state of emergency.
Hundreds of youths fought with steel bars and set shops and cars ablaze in what the interim government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, described as a “local conflict” possibly sparked by an argument in a casino. Most casualties had gunshot wounds.
The violence in the southern power base of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, deposed in April by a popular revolt in the Central Asian country, was likely to raise fears about ethnic clashes breaking out in what is widely seen as a volatile area.
The April turmoil in the impoverished former Soviet republic fuelled concern among regional players Russia, China and the United States. The country hosts both a Russian and a U.S. military base.
Bakiyev's supporters briefly seized government buildings in the south on May 13, defying central authorities in Bishkek.
At least 12 people were killed and 126 were wounded during Friday's violence, the Health Ministry said. The ministry had earlier put the death toll at six.
The Interior Ministry said five people had been detained and that the situation in Osh was “strained”. A ministry spokesman said preliminary information suggested the violence could have started in a casino.
Several shops were still on fire near the mayor's office and sporadic gunfire could be heard in central Osh, a Reuters witness said. Crowds of youths roamed the streets armed with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails.
The interim government, which sent in troops and armoured vehicles to quell the violence, said it had declared the state of emergency in Osh and three surrounding regions after holding a meeting in the early hours of Friday.
“Those who are to blame will be detained and held accountable with the full force of the law,” Otunbayeva said in a statement.
“Today our multinational population once more finds itself in a situation that requires every one of us to display extraordinary restraint, wisdom and ability to emerge from the conflicts peacefully, by way of negotiations,” she said. Ismail Isakov, defence minister in the interim government, flew to Osh immediately after the emergency meeting. Isakov was recently appointed by the interim government as its special representative for southern Kyrgyzstan.
Interior Minister Bolot Sherniyazov has also flown to Osh, a city of more than 200,000 people in the volatile Fergana valley. AGENCIES