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OSCE Calls For Restraint After Deadly Kyrgyz Unrest

  • RFE/RL

Protesters carry a man who was injured during clashes with police in Jalal-Abad today.

Protesters carry a man who was injured during clashes with police in Jalal-Abad today.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is urging all parties in Kyrgyzstan to avoid further violence following clashes in the south of the country that left at least two people dead.

The call came as thousands of people rallied again today in Jalal-Abad.

The Kyrgyz interim government declared a state of emergency and imposed a night curfew in the southern city of Jalal-Abad following the May 19 violence. The state of emergency began on May 19 and will run through June 1 and sets a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The violence included shots being fired as protesters tried to storm a university in Jalal-Abad that serves as a focal point for the local ethnic Uzbek minority. It was not clear who opened fire.

The incident has prompted fears of possible ethnic tensions in the Kyrgyz city, which has a sizeable community of ethnic Uzbeks.

In a statement, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabaev, who currently chairs the OSCE, said "conflicts on ethnic grounds are especially unacceptable" and that overcoming the crisis in Kyrgyzstan will require that "public safety, rule of law, peace, and stability be ensured."

Saudabaev said he had spoken by telephone with Kyrgyzstan's interim government head Roza Otunbaeva and expressed concern about the continued unrest that has followed last month's ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiev in violent protests.

Protesters storm the university building in Jalal-Abad.
The interim government announced on May 19 that Otunbaeva has been named interim president of the country. Officials in Bishkek said that Otunbaeva, who has headed the government since Bakiev was forced from power, would remain head of state until December 2011.

Otunbaeva condemned what she termed attempts to "sow the seeds of discord among our people, especially between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz."

"I want to assure you that we are monitoring the situation and we have engaged all the necessary forces," she said.

The interim government has accused Bakiev supporters of trying to stir up ethnic violence in the country.

'No One Here Came To Support Bakiev'

But at least one demonstrator, Bolot Jooshbaev, told RFE/RL that the protesters were not marching in support of Bakiev, but against a local Uzbek minority leader, Kadyrzhan Batyrov.

"No one here came to support Bakiev. We are just demanding that Kadyrzhan Batyrov be brought here, or acting Governor Bektur Asanov, or some chief of security forces," he said. "But so far, nobody has come out to talk to us."

An RFE/RL correspondent at the scene, Rysbai Abdraimov, said the latest protest started peacefully at the local horse-racing track.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against Batyrov, accusing him of provoking tensions in the area. They also accused Batyrov supporters of setting fire to Bakiev's family home in the nearby village of Teyyit in recent days.

Then protesters marched toward the Friendship of Nations University, which is funded by Batyrov.

Ethnic Uzbeks repel those who attacked the university building.
Batyrov, a wealthy businessman and former lawmaker, enjoys support among Jalal-Abad's Uzbek community. He has officially backed the interim government in the south, where Bakiev has his strongest support.

Special police forces stationed around the university building shot into the air trying to disperse the crowd, which was throwing stones toward the building, smashing windows. Abdraimov says some protesters were also throwing stones toward police officers.

Special troops are also stationed around the provincial government office, which was the scene of violent protests last week, when Bakiev supporters took over the government building.

Our correspondent said it was not clear who the organizers of the latest protests were.

Ergash Khuja, an ethnic Uzbek in Jalal-Abad, told RFE/RL that the Uzbek community was "anxious" about the latest events. However, he said, "It seems government forces are capable of preventing" any possible attacks.

"Uzbeks live in this city in large numbers," Khuja said. "Now they are gathering in small groups in their neighborhoods, watchful of anyone who would try to enter their neighborhoods."

Officials in Bishkek say they see a link between the events in Jalal-Abad and last week's violent protests in the south. On May 12-14, Bakiev supporters staged demonstrations in Batken, Jalal-Abad, and Osh, briefly occupying provincial government buildings in all three places.

Bakiev was toppled in the aftermath of antigovernment protests that killed at least 85 people in the capital, Bishkek, in April.

written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague with contributions from RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent Rysbai Abdraimov in Jalal-Abad and agency reports

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