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More Than Half Of Osh Citizens Have Left The City

Children in Osh look out the window of a bus as they wait for evacuation to Bishkek on June 17.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- About 60 percent of the nearly 250,000 citizens of the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh have left the city since ethnic clashes began last week, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Osh Oblast Deputy Governor Taalai Zikirov told RFE/RL that the majority of the city's population has fled to nearby villages, making it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to them.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek residents of Osh and Jalal-Abad fled to neighboring Uzbekistan in the wake of the violent clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Many of them are still caught at the border without shelter and with little food or water.

Meanwhile, thousands of ethnic Kyrgyz found refuge in villages near the two cities. Official figures put the death toll at around 190 people, with nearly 2,000 more injured in the unrest.

Azimbek Beknazarov, the deputy chairman of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, told journalists in Bishkek today that 26 people have been arrested as suspects in organizing the clashes. Beknazarov stated that Kyrgyz authorities would continue to demand the extradition from Britain of Maksim Bakiev, the son of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev who was detained on June 14.

Maksim Bakiev is wanted in Kyrgyzstan for alleged embezzlement and for financing the groups that provoked the mass unrest. Beknazarov said if Britain refuses to extradite Bakiev, the U.S. military base near Bishkek might be shut down.