Kyrgyzstan Faces Crisis after Ethnic Fighting

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Tense ethic fighting has displaced at least 400,000 Kyrgyzstan people in recent weeks. The country is facing an immense crisis even as humanitarian relief efforts are underway.

At least 191 people, mostly Uzbeks, were killed when ethnic violence erupted in the southern Kyrgyz towns of Osh and Jalalabad late last week.

Three hundred thousand people fled their homes and as many as 100,000 took refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan.

"During the past two, three days we buried many of our young brothers who were cut to death or burnt. It is impossible to identify them," Imam Sardor Abidov said.

One local school principal and her students said they were frightened by the fighting.

"It was scary hearing automatic gunfire and explosions. It was awful, we were very scared," Lyudmila Klykova said.

The fighting began when ethnic Kyrgyz attacked Uzbek homes and businesses.

The United Nations has blamed the violence on supporters of former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Bakiyev was ousted from power during anti-government protests and a bloody crackdown in April.

The recent fighting in southern Kyrgyzstan has now subsided and an uneasy calm has settled in to the city of Osh. Some stores have reopened but food is in short supply, especially for those who have fled the city.

"Our team is now in Osh, and they're assessing the situation on the ground," Miroslav Jenca, with the United Nations, said.

While humanitarian aid is starting to trickle in, the need is overwhelming and many of the displaced say they have yet to receive help.

*Originally published June 18, 2010. 

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