UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN: Camp established as refugees flee Uzbek violence
ANKARA, 16 May 2005 (IRIN) - The United Nations in Kyrgyzstan has launched an assessment mission to the south of the country and the goverment has opened a refugee camp, after more than 1,000 Uzbeks crossed into the country following three days of violence in eastern Uzbekistan. Human rights groups in Uzbekistan estimate the clashes left 600 people dead.
The head of the Kyrgyz office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Carlos Zaccagnini is in the south of the country with members of a UN inter-agency mission. "The UN group is involved now in practical steps to find solutions to the current crisis with refugees and the sharpening of the political situation in the south," Olga Grebennikova, public information officer for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kyrgyzstan told IRIN on Monday.
The bloodshed in eastern Uzbekistan started early on Friday when between 60 and 100 armed men stormed the local prison to free 23 inmates accused of belonging to an illegal group related to Hizbut Tahrir. They also released some 2,000 other prisoners.
Thousands of people in the city, located in the impoverished and densely populated Ferghana valley, had been demonstrating against the trial, which they said was based on charges trumped up by the government.
After the prison breakout, the gunmen seized public buildings, while a crowd of about 5,000 supporters demonstrated outside against the government. Security forces opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds, witnesses said. An IRIN correspondent in Andijan, who ran for his life from the bullets, said he saw "hundreds of bodies" after the shootings on Friday.
On Saturday, thousands fled the bloodshed to the closed border with Kyrgyzstan and in the border town of Kara-Suu, residents set fire to a police station and other official buildings, fanning fears the unrest might spread.
The violence in Andijan followed protests in the nearby Kyrgyz cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, which led to the overthrow of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in March.
Kyrgyzstan has opened a camp for refugees who managed to cross from Uzbekistan. "A refugee camp has been put in place in the region of Jalal-Abad to offer indispensible aid to Uzbek citizens," said the press office for Kyrgyzstan's emergencies ministry. Some refugees told journalists they had been shot at by
Uzbek border guards while leaving the country.
"The camp in the Jalal-Abad region already has 900 Uzbek refugees," Samat Toimatov, an official with the health ministry, said. "There are injured and sick among them who are receiving medical aid."
"Thirteen among them have bullet wounds," Miroslav Naizov, another Kyrgyz health ministry official, told AFP.
"We have to be ready for a massive influx of refugees onto Kyrgyz territory, mainly the old, women and children," Naizov said.
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