BISHKEK: Tens of thousands of Uzbek refugees fled raging violence in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday as the interim government struggled to stem the country's worst ethnic clashes since the end of the Soviet Union. Gunbattles between rival groups turned cities into warzones and marauding mobs torched whole villages on a third day of bloodshed in the...
BISHKEK: Tens of thousands of Uzbek refugees fled raging violence in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday as the interim government struggled to stem the country's worst ethnic clashes since the end of the Soviet Union.
Gunbattles between rival groups turned cities into warzones and marauding mobs torched whole villages on a third day of bloodshed in the Central Asian nation, leaving 102 people dead and more than 1,200 injured.
Neighbouring Uzbekistan said up to 80,000 ethnic Uzbeks, mostly women and children, had fled the fighting and were being housed in hastily-set up camps along the border as rights groups warned of a looming humanitarian crisis.
Russia sent paratroopers to protect its airbase in Kyrgyzstan but rejected requests from Bishkek to get involved in the unrest that has riven the country since President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April.
Interim Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva's provisional government late Saturday gave security forces shoot-to-kill orders to protect civilians, amid growing calls from foreign leaders and aid groups to end the clashes.
“If we do not take opportune and effective measures the unrest could become much more serious and descend into a regional conflict,” it said.
It tightened a state of emergency to a 24-hour curfew in the Osh region, where the violence erupted Thursday and extended the emergency rule across the country's entire southern Jalalabad region as fighting spread there.
Kyrgyz authorities sent five planes of soldiers from the capital Bishkek to Jalalabad, government radio reported, while the defence ministry mobilised Sunday all army reservists age 18 to 50.
But the violence raged on, with many of refugees flooding the Uzbekistan border village of Yorkishlok accusing Kyrgyz law enforcement officials of abetting marauding gangs of ethnic Kyrgyz.
Uzbekistan has voiced “extreme alarm” over the situation, calling it an organized bid to inflame ethnic tensions, as it officially allowed people over the border for the first time.
“In the whole of the Andijan region, 32,000 adult refugees have been registered,” Abror Kosimov, the head of the regional emergency services, told a foreign news agency, adding that the number of child refugees was in the thousands.
A police official put the total number including children at more than 80,000.
In Kyrgyzstan's south, panicked residents described ongoing chaos and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had warned of a growing humanitarian crisis. AGENCIES