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Uzbek refugees trickle home amid relative calm

Last Updated: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 20:17

Osh (Kyrgyzstan): A handful of Uzbek
refugees displaced by ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan returned
to their wrecked homes on Thursday in the southern city of Osh,
desperate for food and water that aid agencies have had
trouble delivering to the thousands camped out on the border.

Kyrgyzstan`s weak military has been gradually
regaining control of Osh, a major transit point for Afghan
heroin and the epicentre of the violence that left hundreds
dead and forced more than 100,000 Uzbeks from their homes at
the hands of Kyrgyz mobs.
Thousands of Uzbeks remain fearful of returning from
border areas and are awaiting their chance to enter camps on
the Uzbekistan side.

Some humanitarian aid via Uzbekistan has been getting
through to those on the border, but for thousands on the
Kyrgyz side it hasn`t been enough. International aid agencies
say they have had troubled getting aid to the Uzbeks.

In an Uzbek neighbourhood of Osh, a baker who had fled
to the border with his wife and five children said his family
had lost hope after supplies on the border ran out, and
returned out of desperation.

"Is there any difference where to die? There is no
food, no water, no humanitarian aid," Melis Kamilov, 36, said
against the backdrop of his ruined home.

The Kamilovs fled to the border on Sunday, three days
after the rioting began in earnest.

"I am an Uzbek, is that a crime? This is not a Kyrgyz
house, this house is mine."
Troops have encircled the city of Osh with checkpoints
and hold the central square, but locals have complained that
some soldiers also were looting food aid.

Some refugees who deserted Jalal-Abad, another town to
have suffered heavy damaging in the rioting, have been stopped
from returning there by authorities who set up a checkpoint on
the road back into the city.

The rioting undermined attempts to bring stability in
the wake of a bloody uprising in April that deposed President
Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Authorities accuse Bakiyev and his family of stoking
the rioting to thwart a June 27 referendum that would give the
interim government more legitimacy; some observers contend the
unrest was instigated after his clan lost control of a key
drug transit route.

The leader of Kyrgyzstan`s Uzbek community has said
the death toll among Uzbeks exceeded 300. The official toll on
both sides is nearly 200, although officials have acknowledged
it is likely far higher.


First Published: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 20:17

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