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Fresh Rally As Tensions Continue In South Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic Kyrgyz protesters rally in Jalal-Abad on May 19.
Thousands of people have rallied in the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad as tensions persist following deadly ethnic disturbances there on May 19.

RFE/RL's correspondent at the scene, Rysbai Abdraimov, said some of the estimated 5,000 people gathered at the city's horse track assaulted the regional governor, Bektur Asanov, who had gone to talk to the crowd together with the country's acting defense minister, Ismail Isakov. Asanov was not seriously injured.

Abdraimov said the demonstration is the continuation of the deadly May 19 protests, when people demanded the arrest of a local Uzbek community leader, Kadyrzhan Batyrov, accusing him of stirring up hostility in the area.

"Like [May 19], protesters demanded Kadyrzhan Batyrov's arrest. They also demanded that the authorities find the weapons [that were used in the recent violence] and find those who shot at protesters on May 14 and May 19," Abdraimov says. "As you know, two people were shot dead here."

Abdraimov said the protesters maintained they were not supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

There has been persistent unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan following Bakiev's ouster in violent protests last month. At least one person was killed in Jalal-Abad on May 14, when pro-Bakiev protesters briefly took over local government buildings in Jalal-Abad as well as neighboring Batken and Osh provinces.

The interim government has declared a state of emergency and blamed Bakiev's supporters for fueling interethnic tensions.

In a statement, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabaev, the current chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expressed "deep concern" about the events in Jalal-Abad and urged all parties to avoid further violence. He said his country "has made every effort" to help Kyrgyzstan resolve its crisis.

Meanwhile, Omurbek Tekebaev, deputy head of the interim government, told reporters today that a May 19 decree has made interim leader Roza Otunbaeva acting president until December 31, 2011. Otunbaeva later announced that the extension is subject to approval by voters when they go to the polls on June 27 to vote on a new Kyrgyz constitution to be presented by the interim government in the coming days.

Tekebaev said presidential elections previously announced for October would be held instead in 2011. "Presidential elections should be held two months before the end of the interim president's term," he said.

written by Farangis Najibullah, with contributions from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
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