Friday, June 18, 2010

Kyrgyz leader, in south, vows refugees will return

Kyrgyzstan's interim leader travelled to the strife-torn south on Friday, pledging to rebuild the region to allow refugees from ethnic bloodletting to return to their homes from squalid camps.

The government has struggled to restore order following clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the ancient Silk Road city of Osh that killed about 200 people last week -- the worst violence in Kyrgyzstan in two decades.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly women and children, are crammed into huts and makeshift camps in the sun-scorched plains of the Ferghana valley, many running out of food and water.

Acting president Roza Otunbayeva landed in Osh, its streets lined with charred buildings, in a military helicopter to meet local leaders.

"We will rebuild the city of Osh no matter what, so people can return to their homes," a government statement quoted Otunbayeva as saying during the visit.

The former Soviet republic has been rocked by unrest since a revolt in April toppled its president Kurmanbek Bakiyev and brought the interim government to power.

Some 400,000 people out of Kyrgyzstan's population of only 5.3 million have fled since June 10, some to refugee camps in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake flew to inspect refugee camps on the Uzbek side of the border where a stable security situation has allowed the authorities to set up more orderly camps to house about 100,000 people.

In one camp, lined with rows of tents marked with the United Nations logo, dozens of women, many in tears, surrounded Blake, who was later due to fly to Kyrgyzstan.


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