Ethnic violence plagues Kyrgyzstan
OSH, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - An estimated 400,000 people - nearly one-twelfth the population - have fled their homes to escape Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence, the U.N. said Thursday as throngs of refugees huddled in grim camps along the Uzbekistan border without adequate food or water.
That figure represents half the roughly 800,000 ethnic Uzbeks who lived in Kyrgyzstan's south before Central Asia's worst ethnic violence in decades erupted there last week. More than 200 people have been killed, and Uzbeks have been all but purged from some parts of the south.
Ethnic Uzbeks on Thursday accused security forces of standing by or even helping ethnic-majority Kyrgyz mobs as they slaughtered people and burned down neighborhoods. Col. Iskander Ikramov, the chief of the Kyrgyz military in the south, rejected allegations of troop involvement in the riots but said the army didn't interfere in the conflict because it was not supposed to play the role of a police force.
The military and police set up roadblocks and began patrols this week after the worst violence was over.
Uzbeks interviewed by Associated Press journalists in Osh, the country's second-largest city, said that on one street alone, ethnic Kyrgyz men sexually assaulted and beat more than 10 Uzbek women and girls, including some pregnant women and children as young as 12.