Kyrgyzstan opens 1,400 ethnic riot cases

July 9, 2010 at 3:18 PM
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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, July 9 (UPI) -- Kyrgyzstan has opened nearly 1,400 criminal cases following ethnic rioting that killed 309 people and injured some 2,300, the regional commandant said Friday.

The 1,381 criminal cases from the June rioting include 106 people "detained on suspicion of committing crimes," an official at the commandant's office told the Russian state-owned ITAR-Tass news agency. "Of them, 97 were taken in custody."

"At present, police received 91 applications" to find residents unaccounted for in the violence, the official said.

Reports from villages and towns across the region said bands of Kyrgyz had sought out Uzbeks, setting fire to their homes and killing them, The New York Times reported.

The four days of ethnic rioting broke out June 9 in and around the major southern city of Osh, known for longstanding tensions between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority. The violence spread west to the city of Jalalabad June 11.

The fragile provisional government announced a state of emergency and curfew in the region until Aug. 10. It also asked the intergovernmental Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to send in an international police force.

The violence followed the April overthrow of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Local Uzbeks largely supported the country's provisional new leadership. Witnesses cited by the Times said the violence was organized by pro-Bakiyev rogue elements of the Kyrgyz government and military.

Bakiyev, in exile in Belarus, denied any connection to the attacks.

Impoverished Kyrgyzstan is strategically important to the United States because it hosts the U.S. Air Force Transit Center at Manas, formerly the Manas Air Base, used to supply troops in nearby Afghanistan.

Russia also has military facilities in the country.

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