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Flow of refugees fleeing Kyrgyzstan slows down, but crisis remains

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Embattled Kyrgyzstan
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: More gunfire heard in Osh
  • Uzbekistan concerned that it has had no official contact with Kyrgyzstan
  • Red Cross estimates that there are also 60,000 internally displaced people

Osh, Kyrgyzstan (CNN) -- The flow of refugees fleeing southern Kyrgyzstan has gone from a flood to a trickle, the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry said.

Uzbekistan authorities said even though the flow of people had slowed down they were still dealing with an estimated 120,000 refugees. Aid workers were calling the fallout from ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan a humanitarian crisis.

No one from Kyrgyzstan's interim government had made official contact with them since refugees flooded into their country, the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Ministry officials said they were surprised and concerned that they have not had official contact with their neighbor during this crisis.

The violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks had calmed down earlier this week after more than 170 people were killed and more than 1,400 were wounded.

But gunfire was heard Thursday from the center of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, a sign that the violent ethnic clashes may be intensifying again. Gunfire in the hard-hit city had been heard only at night. Thursday was the first time CNN producers on the scene have heard daytime gunfights.

Video: Survivors of violence share tales
Video: Refugee camps for Uzbeks
Kyrgyzstan map
RELATED TOPICS
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Central Asia
  • Russia

The clashes, which started last week, were part of the most serious outbreak of ethnic violence in the former Soviet republic since 1990, when hundreds of people died in skirmishes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Osh.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov from London on Wednesday, thanking Karimov for his help with the humanitarian situation, according to a statement from Ban's office.

The secretary-general promised assistance to affected people in southern Kyrgyzstan and those seeking refuge in Uzbekistan, and said he intended to consult with key members of the U.N. Security Council upon his return to New York later Wednesday.

One U.N. plane, loaded with tons of tents, landed in the area Wednesday and others were on the way. Several countries, including the United States, Germany and Russia, have also sent aid.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said along with refugees there was an estimated 60,000 internally displaced people in Kyrgyzstan.

Francois Blancy, deputy head of the Red Cross regional office in Uzbekistan, said more aid is needed.

"We are now at the peak of the humanitarian crisis," Blancy said.

CNN's Matthew Chance and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

 
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