BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstanâ€”Ethnic violence in this strategically important Central Asian country showed no sings of abating Monday, threatening to destabilize what has been a conduit for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Sporadic gunfire continued overnight and fresh fires raged in the south, in violence the Health Ministry said has killed at least 117 people. Officials say the death toll could be considerably higher, as the current count includes only the dead at hospitals and morgues.
Jallahitdin Jalilatdinov, the leader of the Uzbek community in Kyrgyzstan, told the Associated Press that more than 200 Uzbeks have been killed in the rioting.
Kyrgyzstan’s government, for the first time since the country declared independence in 1991, on Sunday appealed to Russia for help in restoring order. The Kremlin responded by saying it was sending 300 paratroopersâ€”but only to protect its own military base near Bishkek, far from the fighting in the country’s south. Russia otherwise appears wary of being drawn into the Kyrgyz conflict.
Kyrgyzstan’s own security forces have failed to contain a rising tide of ethnic violence in the south. Around 75,000 people have now fled fighting into neighboring Uzbekistan, Russia’s official news agency said, citing the Uzbek government.
Ethnic clashesâ€”mainly of Kyrgyz attacking Uzbek minoritiesâ€”have also spread through Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest province, Jalal-Abad, government officials said. Crowds on Sunday setting fire to Uzbek homes and businesses, according to local news reports. The AP said armed Kyrgyz amassed at the city’s central square Monday, and planned to travel to the nearby Uzbek settlement of Suzak in search of an Uzbek community leader they blame for starting the trouble.
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