06/14/2010, 00.00
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On the brink of civil war, Kyrgyzstan orders partial mobilisation

Ethnic violence continues with at least 113 deaths. Able-bodied males under the age of 50 called to report for active duty. Russia refuses request for military aid. Tens of thousands of Uzbek civilians fleeing towards Uzbekistan, where refugee camps are being setup. The United Nations sends an envoy.
Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Ethnic violence continued for a fourth day in Kyrgyzstan as the death reached at least 113, with an additional 1,292 people wounded (as reported by hospitals). Yesterday armed groups clashed in the villages around Osh, the country’s second largest city. Local sources said that police and the military are unable to regain control of the situation. The centre of Osh has suffered extensive damage from arson and looting. In Jalal-abad, meanwhile, firefights were said to be raging, causing heavy casualties mainly among Uzbeks. In a village near Osh, Furkat, homes were also said to be ablaze.

The country’s interim government ordered a partial mobilisation—all able-bodied men under 50 were called upon to report for active duty as for yesterday. The authorities also called upon on others and those who are on alternative military service to sign up voluntarily.

The use of the military to intervene in a civil crisis carries however great risks, raising the spectre of a military dictatorship, but it is a clear sign of the desperation of the interim government led by Roza Otunmbayeva.

Russia has rejected her request for a “peace force”, but did dispatch 150 soldiers to defend its base in the northern part of the country.

Unofficial sources say the United States refused to a similar demand; the Americans have a base at Manas in northern Kyrgyzstan, close to the Kazakh border.

Experts believe that military action might be a last chance to regain control; at the same time, it could aggravate ethnic tensions between the country’s Uzbek minority, which is strong in the south and loyal to former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and the Kyrgyz majority.

Bakiyev’s ouster in April and his replacement by an interim government have accentuated frustrations among many in the south, who feel exploited and discriminated by the north.

Local sources note that criminal gangs who steel, burn, rape and abduct people are also involved in the violence.

By contrast, the situation is calm in the capital of Bishkek and across the north.

In the Aravan District, near Osh, a crowd of Uzbek men called on local authorities to make weapons available to them, and to facilitate their passage to Osh so that they could help protect Uzbeks there.

A crowd estimated at 1,000 of Kyrgyz raided the Osh Market.

For its part, Uzbekistan has set up refugees camps (pictured). Uzbek authorities have estimates the number of displaced people at around 75,000. Kyrgyz authorities have put the number at only 6,000 refugees. The Eurasianet news agency reported instead anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000 refugees in Uzbek camps with schools in the border region requisitioned as shelters.

Military experts warn that the situation could facilitate infiltration by Islamic extremists who already control entire provinces in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has dispatched an envoy to Bishkek.

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See also
UN reports at least 400,000 refugees in Kyrgyzstan
Red Cross: Kyrgyzstan, scene of an “immense crisis”
Kyrgyzstan to close US air base
Tanks retake Osh and the south
Islamic extremism on the rise again in Central Asia


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