Uzbek refugees say Kyrgyzstan forces aided ethnic attacks

Uniformed Kyrgyz troops gave armed support to mobs attacking ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan, according to refugees who fled the violence.

Updated: Jun 14, 2010, 20:40 PM IST

Uzbekistan: Uniformed Kyrgyz troops gave armed support to mobs attacking ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan, according to refugees who fled the violence.

Bakhtiyor Sharipov, a 30-year-old officer in Kyrgyzstan`s army, said he deserted his armoured unit in revulsion after watching his own troops gun down ethnic Uzbek civilians in the southern city of Osh.

"What I saw was not an army," Sharipov recounted to a news agency at this Uzbek border post where he joined tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks who fled the bloodshed and poured into Uzbekistan.

"They were shooting at civilians of the Uzbek diaspora, working together with criminals. I left for that reason and crossed the border," said Sharipov, himself an ethnic Uzbek.

"The Kyrgyz defence ministry ordered us not to fire on civilians. But in Osh, military and police in uniform ignored this order and helped bandits to kill Uzbeks," he said.

Sharipov specifically charged that his commanding officer, a colonel in the Kyrgyzstan army whom he named as Kursand Asanov, allowed the troops to shoot.

Panicked refugees, who arrived by the hundreds every hour on Monday at this Uzbek border post, painted a terrifying picture of the killings in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Sharipov`s story corresponded with accounts offered by ethnic Uzbek refugees who had crossed into Uzbekistan and with stories told by local residents to a news agency in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh.

Many described how Kyrgyz security forces in armoured vehicles drove down streets in Uzbek neighborhoods in Osh, shooting frequently and clearing the way for mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz men in civilian clothes who followed behind.

Most could not say whether the forces were from the Kyrgyzstan army or from interior ministry security units.

"The Kyrgyz military came to tell us about the curfew. When we were all in our houses, they let armed gangs set fire to our houses and kill everyone," an elderly man, Uraynjon, said at one swelling refugee camp.

Women and children were prey to some of the most brutal attacks, according to refugees, many of whom said women were raped.

"I saw with my own eyes how they nailed a little boy to a tree," one elderly refugee, who gave her name as Markhabo said to a news agency. "The burnt corpses of women lay on the road."

A resident on the Uzbekistan side of the border said to a news agency he and his neighbours had fished two naked and mutilated corpses of women out of a river.

"They are raping women and setting fire to homes," 29-year-old refugee Nargyz said to a news agency at a makeshift camp in the Uzbek city of Khojaobod.

Ekaterina, 20, an ethnic Russian student who had been studying law in Osh, said masked men with automatic rifles had set up road blocks along the road to the border and were searching cars for ethnic Uzbek -- in full view of Kyrgyz law enforcement forces.

"They are killing only the Uzbeks," she said. "They didn`t touch me because I am Russian-looking. There were Kyrgyz army armoured personnel carriers nearby but they did nothing! They just looked on."

She said people were hiding in fear in the basements of homes, many of which had been burnt, in Uzbek neighbourhoods of Osh.

"They can`t come out because they are being be shot at. They will probably die of hunger there," Ekaterina said.

Other refugees said they came under fire on their flight to the border.

"An APC shot at us. My neighbour -- an 18-year-old boy -- was killed by a sniper right in front of his parents," Lobarkhon said to a news agency.

Estimates from various Uzbek emergency and law enforcement officials suggest that well over 100,000 people have fled to eastern Uzbekistan where authorities were struggling to cope.

Bureau Report