Kyrgyzstan: Pogroms kill, displace thousands

Ethnic violence against the Uzbek minority in the southern Kyrgyz cities of Jalalabad and Osh has created more than 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people. The official death toll is more than 200, but Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva told the June 16 Washington Post that the real figure may be 10 times higher.

Otunbayeva came to power in a mass uprising in April against former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who himself came to power through extra-parliamentary means in 2005. Before Bakiyev fled, his security forces killed 75 protesters.

The June 19 Irish Times reported “Otunbayeva and her government say the attacks were started by allies of ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in a bloody uprising in April. Uzbeks say they were shot at by men in armoured vehicles wearing uniforms as well as by roaming mobs, but military officials deny any involvement.”

Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the world with both a US and Russian military base. The US base is an essential supply point for US occupation forces in Afghanistan.

According to a June 15 blog post by progressive US writer and cartoonist Ted Rall, Bakiyev came to power with CIA help after his predecessor was threatening to close the US base. Rall said that Otunbayeva has also indicated that she wants to close the base.