Skip to main content

Kyrgyzstan investigating whether troops involved in ethnic violence

From Matthew Chance and Nic Robertson, CNN
Click to play
Kyrgyzstan peace hopes
  • Government plans investigation of claims that troops were involved in ethnic violence
  • Officials say curfew imposed in Osh extended until Friday
  • One woman says Kyrgyz army killed son
  • Government aide: Reports of Uzbeks shot by Kyrgyz are rumors

Osh, Kyrgyzstan (CNN) -- Kyrgyzstan will investigate allegations that government troops were involved in ethnic violence, an official said Sunday.

Col. Kursan Asanov, appointed by the Kyrgyz interim government to run the reconciliation operation in the southern city of Osh, did not say whether the investigation would include independent investigators.

Asanov said that a government-imposed curfew in Osh that was due to expire Sunday had been extended to Friday. The curfew stretches from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET).

Ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks has displaced 300,000 people inside Kyrgyzstan and forced 100,000 more to flee Kyrgyzstan, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated.

The clashes, which erupted last week, were the most serious outbreak of ethnic violence in the former Soviet republic since 1990, when hundreds of people died in Osh.

The Kyrgyz news agency Kabar said Friday that 191 people died in the violence but Roza Otunbayeva, the acting president of Kyrgyzstan, said that toll should be multiplied by 10, according to the Russian news website Kommersant. She said many deaths in the countryside were not part of the official total of yet.

Video: Kyrgyzstan troops
Video: Refugee to Putin: 'Please help us'
Video: U.S. calls for Kyrgyzstan investigation
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan

Refugees fleeing Kyrgyzstan's surge of ethnic violence have accused the central Asian nation's security forces of carrying out some of the deadly attacks.

Emerging video and witness accounts point to units of the Kyrgyz military taking part in the violence. Uprooted people on both sides of the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border said they are frightened by the Kyrgyz military.

Zuhra Khuchkarova, 48, said her son was killed not by an angry mob, but by the Kyrgyz Army on a killing rampage.

"He was shot in the street by soldiers sitting on top of a tank, surrounded by Kyrgyz men," she said. "He was just 23 and had a pregnant wife. Now he'll never see his child."

She was sure it was the military, she said. No one else has tanks.

Hikmat said soldiers protected people at first, but then turned and shot peaceful Uzbek civilians. Ikromjon, too, said he saw Kyrgyz troops spray a crowd with bullets in the southern city of Osh. The two only gave first names because they did not want to be identified.

The refugees spoke of homes and businesses burned by rampaging militias, bodies in the streets and how their relatives were killed. And they shared video footage captured on their cell phones.

One began with a crowd of Kyrgyz men, facing their ethnic Uzbek rivals. A few seconds in, there are gunshots and cheers.

"Hurray, they're coming," someone shouts in Kyrgyz, as an armored personnel carrier drives into the area amid more gunfire.

In the pandemonium, a voice can be heard shouting: "They're using live bullets, not blanks."

An aide to the interim president said he heard reports that Kyrgyz security forces were involved in shooting Uzbeks based on their ethnic background. However, he said he was not speaking on behalf of the government and that he believed the reports were mainly rumors and provocations.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, who toured a refugee camp near the Uzbekistan border, urged the government to ensure a fair probe into the violence.

"I think that's going to be a very important element. Both a very substantial investigation and also that the perpetrators are held accountable," said Blake, the top American diplomat for Central Asia.

Blake said he wants Kyrgyzstan authorities to investigate who carried out the attacks on ethnic Uzbeks and to bring those responsible to justice.

Many refugees have found shelter along the Uzbekistan border in squalid refugee camps where food and medicine are in short supply.

The U.N. World Food Programme planned to airlift food over the weekend to augment ongoing distributions.

Starting Sunday, planes will carry 110 tons of high-energy biscuits from the agency's warehouse in Dubai to the region -- enough to provide daily rations for 206,000 refugees and displaced people, the agency said Saturday.

The United Nations announced a $71 million emergency appeal for food, medicine and shelter for 500,000 victims of the violence that broke out on June 10. While many are encamped along the border, many are trapped in neighbourhoods in Osh.

"With a huge number of people displaced by the conflict, and thousands more trapped without food, water or supplies, there's not a moment to lose," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the WFP.