At least 46 killed in southern Kyrgyz ethnic riots

Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:34pm GMT

By Hulkar Isamova

OSH, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) - At least 46 people were killed on Friday when ethnic conflict flared in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Osh, the worst outbreak of violence in the Central Asian state since the president was overthrown in April.

The interim government in Kyrgyzstan, which hosts U.S. and Russian military bases, declared a state of emergency in Osh and several local rural districts after hundreds of youths battled with guns and steel bars, setting shops ablaze in the city.

A spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz Health Ministry said 646 people had been injured, 419 of whom were in hospital.

A Reuters correspondent said an Uzbek neighbourhood, Cheryomushki, was ablaze. She said she had seen clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, many people building barricades and a crowd setting fire to two large restaurants and a supermarket.

The government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, sent troops and armoured vehicles to quell gangs roaming the streets with sticks, stones and petrol bombs after a night of violence.

"Regrettably for us, we're clearly talking about a stand-off between two ethnicities. We need (to muster) forces and means to stop and calm these people down, and this is what we are doing right now," Otunbayeva told reporters in the capital Bishkek.

Otunbayeva said crowds of "weird and suspicious-looking people" were streaming to Osh "from all directions." She did not mention their ethnicity. Political tensions between the south and the north exist alongside ethnic and clan rivalries.

Government spokesman Farid Niyazov told Reuters overnight on Friday that the troops "were having a hard time trying to control the situation, they are not succeeding."   Continued...

<p>Soldiers ride on an armoured vehicle along a street in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Alexei Osokin</p>
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