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Thousands Of Ethnic Uzbeks Returning To Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic Uzbek men rest at a refugee camp on the Kyrgyz side of the border with Uzbekistan on June 20.
JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan -- Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have begun returning to Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh and Jalal-Abad regions from refugee camps in neighboring Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The Kyrgyz Border Guard said some 35,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees had crossed the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border en route for their homes in Kyrgyzstan.

Jalal-Abad Oblast Governor Bektur Asanov, who visited several refugee camps in Uzbekistan's Andijon region on June 22, told RFE/RL that about 1,200 ethnic Uzbek refugees had left camps for Kyrgyzstan earlier in the day. He added that thousands more began leaving for the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border after he visited the refugee camps and were headed toward the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad.

Asanov said about 10,000 ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-Abad Oblast are still in refugee camps in Uzbekistan. He added that all of them will have returned home in a day or two.

As many as 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks are estimated to have fled Kyrgyzstan for Uzbekistan in the wake of clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan's southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad that began on June 10.

At least 208 people were killed and thousands injured in the violence, and hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes.

He added that Uzbek Interior Minister Bahodyr Matlyubov, Emergency Situations Minister Tursun Hudoiberdyiev, and Andijon regional Governor Ahmadjon Usmonov assured him they consider the tragic events to have been a provocation by a "third force."

Asanov said 124 babies have been born in the refugee camps since June 10.