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Ethnic Tensions Rising in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic tensions in southern Kyrgyzstan flared today after police said around 500 people gathered to set fire to the house of a man they blame for the murder last week of a local tax inspector.

Police said they used force to disperse the crowd following the incident in the town of Nookat, in Osh Oblast, and detained 20 people.

Demonstrators originally gathered to demand detailed information about the investigation into the murder of an ethnic Kyrgyz man, Sagynbek Alimbaev. Alimbaev was found dead from gunshot wounds in his car on February 23.

On February 25, police arrested three suspects from the mainly village of Shark -- which is populated mainly by ethnic Uzbeks -- who reportedly confessed to the killing.

Investigators say the last person Alimbaev talked to while alive was a local businessman whose name they gave as Ilhom.

Kyrgyz National State Security Committee (UKMK) Deputy Chairman Marat Imankulov said some of the 20 people detained were inebriated and that local police have set up five checkpoints to control the situation in Nookat.

Shops and restaurants on the main street have been closed, and some residents have left their homes.

In mid-June last year, more than 400 people died and thousands were displaced during violent clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.

Nookat is 30 kilometers south of Osh.

Read more in Kyrgyz here