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Kyrgyzstan to hold referendum despite unrest

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Kyrgyzstan to hold referendum despite unrest


Amid an uneasy calm after days of ethnic slaughter, troops continue to patrol the streets of Kyrgyzstan’s southern city of Osh. Little remains in the Uzbek neighbourhood apart from charred ruins and torched cars.

It is estimated that nearly 200 people have now died in the bloodletting. Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have already fled in fear of their lives – many others still in the city have no intention of sticking around.

‘‘They kill women and men. Why are they like this? We need peace. We want to stay here, we were born here, we don’t want to go to another country, this is our mother country,’‘ one Uzbek woman said.

Worries persist ahead of a referendum this month over Kyrgyzstan’s future. Vigilante groups are being set up in the capital Bishkek with rumours the unrest from the south could spread. Despite that threat, the interim government says the vote will go ahead.

The Deputy Head of the Interim Government Security Forces Azimbek Beknazarov said: ‘‘We must hold it because we must get onto a democratic footing. The number of voters is secondary. The people must understand it’s essential we get on a legal footing.’‘

UN planes with aid for Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan have started arriving across the border in Uzbekistan.

Nevertheless, there is deep concern many victims are running short of basic food and water supplies.

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