U.S. envoy urges probe into Kyrgyz killings

Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:54pm GMT

By Shamil Zhumatov

ANDIZHAN, Uzbekistan (Reuters) - The United States called Friday for an international investigation into ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, as the country's leader said the death toll could be 10 times higher than the official tally of 190.

Russia, which rejected a Kyrgyz plea for peacekeeping forces after the violence erupted last week, said it was now considering sending troops to guard key facilities in the Central Asian nation, Russian media reported.

Roza Otunbayeva's interim administration and the United Nations say the bloodshed in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, which has driven hundreds of thousands to flee their burnt-out homes, began with planned and orchestrated attacks.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake described the situation as a humanitarian crisis and urged the interim government of the Central Asian state, which hosts U.S. and Russian military bases, to act immediately to stop the killing.

Blake visited refugee camps in neighbouring Uzbekistan as Otunbayeva travelled to the south and pledged to rebuild the region to allow refugees to leave squalid camps and return home.

The government, which assumed power after the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, has struggled to restore order following clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the ancient Silk Road city of Osh.

Around 400,000 refugees, mainly women and children, are crammed into huts and makeshift camps on either side of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on the sun-scorched plains of the Ferghana valley. Many are running out of food and water.

U.N. officials said an estimated 1 million people were affected by the conflict.   Continued...

<p>Refugees unload a truck with humanitarian aid from the capital Bishkek in the town of Osh, June 17, 2010. Makeshift camps on both sides of Kyrgyzstan's border with Uzbekistan are home to 400,000 refugees uprooted by ethnic violence, the United Nations said on Thursday, and the area remains extremely tense. Many refugees are running short of basic supplies and fear fresh attacks. In one camp, clay houses were crammed with dozens of refugees and many others are having to sleep rough. REUTERS/Stringer</p>
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