Kyrgyz Interim President: 2,000 Killed in Ethnic Clashes

Media reports on the death toll from ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan may not be accurate. Interim President Rosa Otunbayeva believes the number of deaths from violence in the city of Osh could be around 2,000, as many of those killed and immediately buried in keeping with Muslim tradition may not have been accounted for.

Otunbayeva made the estimate on Friday as she visited Osh for the first time since clashes erupted a week ago. “I would increase by ten times the official data on the number of people killed,” Otunbayeva’s spokesman quoted the interim president as saying. Parts of the city of 250,000 have been destroyed, especially in the areas occupied by minority Uzbeks, whose homes and buildings were burned by ethnic Kyrgyz mobs.

Otunbayeva vowed to rebuild the city and restore the normal lives of those affected by the clashes. “We have to give hope that we shall restore the city, return all the refugees and create all the conditions for that,” she said, adding that reconciliation between the ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks is key to ending the violence.

Some 100,000 people are believed to have sought refuged in Uzbekistan, with thousands more camped on the Kyrgyz side of the border between the two countries. The United Nations says that around 400,000 may have been displaced by the clashes.