06/15/2010, 00.00
KYRGYZSTAN
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Fear of humanitarian tragedy in southern part of the country

More than 100,000 refugees pour into Uzbekistan, but Uzbek authorities close the border. Kyrgyzstan’s interim government loses control in the south, where violence and armed clashes continue unabated. There are shortages of food, drugs and power. United Nations calls for an “aid corridor”.
Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Uzbekistan announced last night that it was closing its border with Kyrgyzstan to stop the stream of mostly ethnic Uzbeks fleeing the violence in that country. The United Nations yesterday called for an aid corridor to be set up to help refugees and bring aid to a population already tried by economic hardships and on the edge of famine.

Violence continues in southern Kyrgyzstan as armed gangs are facing off with police, shooting, stealing and raping. In Osh and Jalal-Abad, ethnic Uzbeks are bearing the brunt of the violence. Men in uniform have been seen taking part in the attacks. Officially, at least 138 people have died and 1,622 wounded, but the number of victims is thought to be underestimated.

The interim government of Roza Otunbayeva has lost control in the south and appears unable to re-establish law and order. The army and armed volunteers have been dispatched with “shoot to kill” orders; however, this has only exacerbated the situation.

Uzbekistan’s Emergency minister said that 75,000 people have been displaced; other sources claim that the number of refugees has already reached 150,000, especially women and children.

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council was told of shortages of food, water, electricity and drugs, especially in Osh. For this reason, “a humanitarian space or corridor” should be created to allow UN and other groups to “deliver assistance to people in need”.

Normal supply routes have been cut off by the violence, and the crisis in the area is deteriorating rapidly.

Cargo planes carrying food, medical supplies and other essentials arrived at Osh Airport yesterday.

The United Nations also pledged assistance to Uzbekistan, now faced with a wave of refugees, calling for “urgent action by the international community”.

However, the Security Council has not yet indicated what steps ought to be taken.

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