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Kyrgyzstan Begins 3 Days of Mourning

VOA News 16 June 2010

Flags flew at half-staff Wednesday, as Kyrgyzstan began three days of mourning for the nearly 190 people killed in ethnic violence in the country's south.

The clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks began last Thursday in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad and forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes.

Authorities are struggling to maintain a fragile calm, with Kyrgyz troops patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints in Osh on Wednesday. Heavy arms fire could be heard in the city overnight.

The International Crisis Group on Wednesday urged the interim government to request international help through the United Nations Security Council, to ensure the protection of its population from further violence.

Kyrgyz interim leaders have requested foreign peacekeepers from Russia and other nations, but have not received help. Russia has sent humanitarian aid, including tents and blankets.

The U.N. says supplies for refugees fleeing the violence arrived in neighboring Uzbekistan Wednesday.

U.N. officials have expressed concern about whether aid would reach those who need it.

Robert Blake, the top U.S. diplomat for South and Central Asian affairs, will travel to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan Friday and Saturday to discuss the crisis. The U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan says it has allocated $10 million for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry updated the official death toll Wednesday from the violence to 189, although interim leaders and the Red Cross say the number of people killed is significantly higher. Nearly 1,900 people have required medical attention.

The south is a power base for former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in an April 7 uprising that killed 85 people. The deposed leader, who has taken refuge in Belarus, has denied allegations that his supporters instigated the ethnic violence.

United Nations officials said Tuesday the violence appears to have been triggered by coordinated attacks aimed at creating instability in the Central Asian nation.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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