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PETROVKA, Kyrgyzstan -- The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry says about 80 people have been detained after a rally reportedly turned violent in the town of Petrovka, 45 kilometers west of the capital, Bishkek.

Spokesman Bakyt Seyitov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service says those detained were taken to the Chui regional police office based in Bishkek and are being questioned.

Several hundred people had gathered in Petrovka on April 26 to protest the presence of ethnic Kurds in the town following rumors that an ethnic Kurd was allegedly involved in the rape earlier this month of a 4-year-old ethnic Russian girl.

Police confirmed to RFE/RL that they are searching for a 21-year-old ethnic Kurd, whom they consider to be the main suspect in the case.

Some of the protesters reportedly began throwing stones at the houses of ethnic Kurds living in the town before police broke up the rally.

Regional Governor Bolotkan Kumarov and Kyrgyzstan’s deputy interior minister, Talantbek Isayev, told the crowd that police are investigating the rape incident and will issue a preliminary report within 10 days.

The officials also urged ethnic Kurds living in the town to be patient.

Kyrgyz human rights activist Aziza Abdyrasulova condemned moves by local ethnic Russian and Kyrgyz groups to punish all ethnic Kurds in the town for an alleged crime carried out by a single person.

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