Kyrgyz ethnic conflict toll nearing 2000: Report
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Last Updated: Thursday, June 17, 2010, 18:48
Moscow: The death toll in the week-long ethnic violence in south Kyrgyzstan could cross 2000 mark with over 70,000 refugees fleeing their homes to neighbouring Uzbekistan amid the worst humanitarian crisis since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

"The real death toll in inter-ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan has exceeded 1,800, nearly 10 times higher than the official figures," state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported quoting a 'Secret Service source'.

The striking difference from official figures could be explained by "objective reasons."

"Firstly, following local Islamic customs, many families bury their dead on the first day, before the sunset. Secondly, because of the collapse of local administrative bodies there is no one to report on casualties.

"Moreover, in some places the entire families died in the clashes and no one could report on their deaths," the agency's source explained.

Latest official reports put the death toll at 191, with over 2,000 injured.

However, interim president Rosa Otunbayeva had also conceded that the real figure could be much higher.

The ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups in southern Kyrgyzstan broke out in the city of Osh on June 11 and then spread to the neighbouring Jalalabad region.

The rioting undermined attempts to bring stability following a bloody uprising in April that forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to step down. Authorities accuse the deposed president and his family of stoking the rioting to thwart a June 27 referendum that would give the interim government more legitimacy.

The interim Kyrgyz government has alleged that attackers hired by Bakiyev set off the bloodshed by shooting at both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, who have a history of ethnic tensions.

Thousands of Uzbeks remain fearful of returning from border areas and are awaiting their chance to enter camps on the Uzbekistan side.

Russia, China and US have started to send humanitarian aid to the conflict hit area and the UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon has assured Uzbek President Islam Karimov of full support to Uzbekistan, which is bearing the brunt of massive refugee influx from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.


First Published: Thursday, June 17, 2010, 18:48

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