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Asia-pacific

Thousands return home amid calls for international security force

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-23

An international police force may be needed to restore stability in Kyrgyzstan after ethnic clashes left hundreds dead, the OSCE said on Wednesday, amid reports that thousands of refugees who fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan were returning home.

 

REUTERS - An international police force may be needed to restore stability in southern Kyrgyzstan after the ethnic bloodshed that has killed hundreds and sparked a wave of refugees, an OSCE official said on Wednesday.
 
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is leading talks with EU foreign ministers on beefing up security in the strategic Central Asian state, said Kimmo Kiljunen, special envoy for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
 
"What I think would be really useful would be to have a certain international police operation to offer technical advice, and maybe the presence of international police here. That would create an atmosphere of trust," he told reporters.
 
He said EU foreign ministers were already discussing the option of using police to provide crisis management support in the country. The European Union said it was reinforcing its delegation in Kyrgyzstan, but had no immediate plans to contribute police.
 
"At this stage we are just reinforcing our delegation to make sure there is enough expertise on the ground," said a spokeswoman for the EU's representative for foreign affairs.
 
Violence in Kyrgyzstan has raised concerns in Russia and the United States, which both operate military bases in the country, that the turmoil could spread to other parts of Central Asia.
 
Kyrgyz security forces on Wednesday raided Uzbek neighbourhoods in the strife-torn city of Osh for a third day as thousands more refugees streamed back to the scene of carnage.
 
Human rights workers in Osh, the epicentre of three days of killing this month that sparked an exodus of ethnic Uzbeks, said the raids had been accompanied by looting and more violence in the run-up to a crucial vote on how Kyrgyzstan will be governed.
 
Ben Slay, a senior economist at the U.N. Development Programme, told Reuters that by sowing distrust between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, the violence would end up hitting the already fragile economy of the impoverished country.
 
Three days of killing began on June 10, when coordinated attacks by unidentified individuals in balaclavas sparked fierce fighting between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz, who comprise a roughly equal share of the population in southern Kyrgyzstan.
 
Mainly Uzbek households were attacked and many locals have said state troops, comprising mainly ethnic Kyrgyz soldiers, did little to protect them and in some cases took part in assaults.
 
Kursan Asanov, commandant in Osh, said the police, defence ministry and financial police were conducting joint raids of Uzbek neighbourhoods in an attempt to restore order in the city.
 
"We made it clear to the Kyrgyz and Uzbek sides that they should voluntarily turn in their weapons and hostages, but the results were not satisfactory," Asanov said in an interview.
 
"The main aim of these raids is to search for arms and look for those who have gone missing," he said. Security forces had found hashish, heroin and opium as well as smoothbore guns and pistols, he said.
 
Local Uzbeks have complained that the sweeps have been brutal. Four people died in raids on Monday, while a prominent human rights defender said security forces were entering private houses in Uzbek neighbourhoods.
 
"People are panicking, crying ... Everyone is afraid of the military," the human rights official, Tolekan Ismailova, said by telephone from Osh. "There is looting. They are seizing gold, money, passports and they say: 'Go back to Uzbekistan'."
 
Refugees return
 
About 400,000 mainly ethnic Uzbeks fled the killing in Osh and other parts of southern Kyrgyzstan. About a quarter of them crossed into Uzbekistan, where they have lived for nearly two weeks in tents, reliant on humanitarian aid for food and water.
 
For a second straight day, several thousand ethnic Uzbeks who had fled the violence crossed back into Kyrgyzstan. A Kyrgyz border guard said about 3,000 had crossed by midday.
 
Kyrgyzstan's interim government, in power since the April revolt that overthrew the president, plans to hold a referendum on constitutional reform on Sunday that it sees as a key step towards establishing control of the country.
 
Interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva needs the vote as a stepping stone towards presidential and parliamentary elections and has rejected calls from some officials for it to be postponed, saying any delays would risk a return to violence.
 
Askar Akayev, Kyrgyzstan's first post-Soviet leader, said he disagreed with plans to reform the constitution and that Kyrgyzstan, like all ex-Soviet states, needed a strong leader.
 
"Today is the most inappropriate moment to experiment with the constitution," Akayev, who was ousted in 2005 and lives in exile in Russia, said at a conference in Moscow.
 
"We, the Kyrgyz, are unable to listen to each other. Let's face it: parliamentary rule will not work. It will only slow us down."

 

Date created : 2010-06-23

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