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Uzbek refugees head back to Kyrgyzstan

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 22 (UPI) -- Ethnic Uzbeks started leaving refugee camps in Uzbekistan for the restive southern regions of neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz officials said.

Bektur Asanov, the governor of the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that more than 1,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees have left their camps Tuesday for Kyrgyzstan.

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Border guards in Kyrgyzstan said more than 35,000 Uzbeks have crossed the border on their way home to Kyrgyzstan.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that ethnic conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks has displaced 300,000 people within Kyrgyzstan and forced 100,000 others to flee the country.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva visited the south of the country amid heavy security last week promising to work hard so people can return home.

Otunbayeva took power when an April coup deposed Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The interim government said there was a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Bakiyev and other top government officials. His son, Maksim, was arrested last week on charges he was inciting ethnic clashes in the Kyrgyz south in an effort to return his father to power.

At least 250 people have died in ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan.

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