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Kyrgyzstan declares state of emergency after clash

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 23:38

Bishkek: Several thousand people tried to
storm a university in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday in a burst of ethnic
violence that left at least 2 people dead and more than 70
wounded, prompting the interim government to call a local
state of emergency.

Witnesses in the southern town of Jalal-Abad said
thousands of ethnic Kyrgyz advanced on the private university
that serves as the center of the minority Uzbek community.
They said gunfire broke out as crowds approached the building
encircled by a cordon of special security forces.
Kyrgyzstan has been struggling to maintain stability
since President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted from power in
April amid deadly clashes between government forces and
demonstrators that claimed 89 lives.

It was not clear who opened fire in Jalal-Abad today, but
health officials said most of the 71 injured appeared to be
from the crowd. At least two people were killed, the Health
Ministry said.

The head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva,
responded by ordering the state of emergency and a curfew in
Jalal-Abad and the surrounding area. She dispatched the acting
interior minister to oversee the area, where support for
Bakiyev still runs strong.

Tensions have long simmered between ethnic Kyrgyz and
Uzbek - both Sunni Muslim groups - in the former Soviet
nation`s restive south. In 1990, hundreds were killed in a
violent land dispute between the two communities across
southern Kyrgyzstan, which borders Uzbekistan.

Witnesses said the crowd assembled today in front of the
university threw stones at the building and shouted demands
for the hand-over of Uzbek community leader Kadyrjan Batyrov,
whom they accused of inciting racial tension. Batyrov, a
wealthy businessman, paid for the construction of the Peoples`
Friendship University.

Batyrov told The Associated Press that the crowd outside
his university was connected to criminal elements close to the
Bakiyev family.
"The crowd that came to the university had weapons and
firebombs," he said. "When they began to attack, the police
fled, and the attackers then ran into the building, smashed
windows and tried to set fire to the building."

The country`s interim leader said every possible measure
is being taken to defuse the situation.

"We have recently demonstrated that we are capable of
securing the peace," Otunbayeva said in the capital of
Bishkek. "Law enforcement agencies will do everything in their
power in Jalal-Abad to make certain there are no incidents."

Otunbayeva placed acting Interior Minister Baktybek
Alymbekov in charge of securing Jalal-Abad, and instructed
military and police to provide support.


First Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 23:38

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