Kyrgyzstan has appealed for outside help in quelling unrest in the south, where at least 80 people have been killed in rioting and interethnic clashes.
The Health Ministry says a further 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been injured in two days of unrest in Osh and nearby areas. It is the worst violence in the country since an April uprising ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiev from power.
Interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva said she had sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appealing tor military assistance, and that she welcomed help from other countries.
"We have appealed to friendly countries," Otunbayeva said.
"The situation has been spiraling out of control and we need some kind of [help from] third forces, from a third country, a country other than Kyrgyzstan. We need the help of another [country's] armed forces to pacify the situation."
But Russia called the situation an internal matter and said it had no immediate plans to send troops - only humanitarian aid.
The unrest is causing concern in the region and beyond. The Uzbek Foreign Ministry today expressed "extreme alarm" and called the violence an organized bid to inflame ethnic tensions in the area.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it would send a special envoy to Kyrgyzstan. And the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation.”
Kyrgyzstan's interim authorities, meanwhile, appealed to retired police and army officers to travel to Osh to help prevent further violence, and authorized police and troops to use lethal force to end the rioting.
They also announced a curfew in the southern city of Jalal-Abad - where a mob today attacked an Uzbek-run university -- and the nearby district of Suzak.
Otunbaeva told reporters on June 12 that there are "some inside forces" who would want to destabilize Jalal-Abad as well ahead of this month’s planned national referendum on a new constitution.
"So far Jalal-Abad is quiet. But we all expect that we should be prepared for the upcoming evening and night," Otunbaeva said.
"There are some inside forces -- at least, I don't see yet any outside forces -- who want to interrupt the upcoming referendum, who want to stop Kyrgyzstan from moving forward."
The fighting broke out early on June 11 in Osh between groups of Kyrgyz and Uzbek youths and quickly spilled over into battles between bigger groups as law enforcement tried to restrain them.
The interim government declared a state of emergency in the area and sent in troops along with armored vehicles and helicopters.
RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service correspondent in Osh, Alisher Toksonbaev, says gunfire could still be heard in the city today, and that many Osh residents are fleeing the city.
Amid reports of thousands of people heading to the border, interim authorities said today a border point with Uzbekistan near Osh is open from the Kyrgyz side.
Electricity and gas supplies have been cut off in Osh since June 11 and public transportation is not functioning. The city's bazaar has been set alight, as were many other buildings downtown, Toksonbaev reports.
Several residential houses were reportedly set on fire, including houses in Uzbek neighborhoods.
There are extensive reports about clashes between the local Kyrgyz and the area's sizeable Uzbek minority. Kyrgyzstan's interim authorities accused "destructive" elements of instigating interethnic violence in the country.
RFE/RL correspondent Toksonbaev said masked men speaking both Kyrgyz and Uzbek had been moving around the city, apparently shooting both at Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.
Turmoil Spreads To Bishkek
Andrea Berg, a Central Asia researcher for international group Human Rights Watch, expressed concern about reported attacks on ethnic Uzbeks, and called on Kyrgyz authorities to take "urgent action to protect all groups in southern Kyrgyzstan from ethnic reprisals in the wake of recent rioting."
Berg adds that he has "information from my acquaintances living in Uzbek neighborhoods near the main railway station and provincial hospital" that "drunken Kyrgyz came to the area -- and they are not local Kyrgyz -- and that they were killing people. Now I have such information from two sources that Uzbeks, in big groups both in cars and by foot, are fleeing toward Uzbekistan's border."
The turmoil has spread to the capital Bishkek, where at least 27 people have reportedly been hospitalized since clashes overnight.
Local media reported that authorities in the capital have been trying to stop groups of people -- mostly young men -- from going to Osh. Dozens of angry people reportedly gathered around the parliament building today, demanding that authorities to provide them with vehicles to go to Osh, saying they wanted to protect their relatives in the south.
Another group of men, mostly natives of the southern provinces working at the capital's Osh Bazaar, were also trying to get to the southern city.
Interim officials were reportedly telling the men to leave it to law-enforcement forces to restore order in the south.
The situation has been unstable in the south since the ouster of the former President Bakiev in the aftermath of a popular uprising in April that left more than 80 people dead.
Support for Bakiev has been strongest in the south, where the president hails from.
Dubbed the country's "southern capital," Osh -- with a population of some 220,000 -- is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan.
Written by Farangis Najibullah with material from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.