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UN agencies fear escalation in Kyrgyz `ethnic tinderbox`

UN agencies said on Tuesday they feared an escalation in fighting in Kyrgyzstan, warning of an "ethnic tinderbox" in the region after an estimated 2,75,000 people fled their homes in less than a week.



Geneva: UN agencies said on Tuesday they feared
an escalation in fighting in Kyrgyzstan, warning of an "ethnic
tinderbox" in the region after an estimated 2,75,000 people
fled their homes in less than a week.

UN relief agencies and the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) stepped up deliveries of medical aid, food
and shelter to Kyrgyzstan and neighbouring Uzbekistan as
supplies in some areas were running low.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) said it would begin airlifting some 240 tonnes of
shelter equipment to Uzbekistan tomorrow from a warehouse in
Dubai.

"We are alarmed by the rapid escalation of violence since
10 June in southern Kyrgyzstan, which has left scores of
people dead and led to the displacement of an estimated
2,00,000 people within the country in addition to 75,000 who
have sought safety in Uzbekistan," said UNHCR spokesman Andrej
Mahecic.

Kyrgyzstan`s interim leader Roza Otunbayeva said today
that the inter-ethnic clashes that claimed 170 lives were
already "on the wane".

Aid workers reported ongoing tensions and sporadic
fighting in the Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalalabad, close to
the Uzbek border.

"We fear that unless peace and order is restored swiftly
more people could be displaced as they flee to the countryside
or try to cross the border to Uzbekistan," Mahecic told
journalists.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
said its staff had gathered evidence from witnesses suggesting
that the violence was deliberately triggered by armed men in
five simultaneous attacks in Osh last Thursday.
"We believe this is an extremely dangerous situation
given the ethnic patchwork in this part of Kyrgyzstan, it`s a
highly complex ethnic mix there with some 80 ethnic groups
just in the Osh region," said spokesman Rupert Colville.

"It has been known for many years that this region is a
potential ethnic tinderbox, for that reason it`s essential
that the authorities act firmly to halt the fighting."

"We have strong indications that this event was not a
spontaneous interethnic clash, we have some indications that
it was to some degree orchestrated, targeted and well
planned," Colville added.

The ICRC said a flight carrying high energy biscuits for
about 20,000 people was due to arrive in Osh today, while aid
workers also had access to food supplies from a local World
Food Programme warehouse.

PTI

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