The war in Afghanistan is officially spreading to the Central Asian republics.
First stop, Kyrgyzstan
For the moment, the Pentagon is breathing a sigh of relief. Vital US fuel supply flights from its Manas base to Afghanistan resumed last week even as Kyrgyzstan slid into chaos. At least 171 and possibly as many as 500 have died in rioting in southern Kyrgyzstan this week, almost all ethnic Uzbeks, with thousands injured. More than 80,000 fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan, forcing it to close its borders as it cannot cope with more. On Monday, China began evacuating the majority of its 1000 nationals.
Armed Kyrgyz in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, Jalalabad and some villages targeted Uzbek neighbourhoods, burning and killing indiscriminately.
The Red Cross said 100 bodies were seen buried in just one cemetery.
The chaos spread to the capital Bishkek but was brought under control when riot police fired tear gas and flash grenades.
Kyrgyzstan’s acting President Roza Otunbayeva declared a state of emergency in the south, ordered the mobilisation of military reservists, and issued a shoot to kill order after Russia refused her request Saturday to send in troops to quell the rioters.
Defending her moves, said Sergei Abashin, senior researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow, “Local police would easily surrender their weapons to young Kyrgyz rioters as they have common relatives and friends in this clan, and they would never shoot at their own.”