Kyrgyzstan shaken by new round of deadly violence
April 20. AFP. BISHKEK
by Tolkun Namatbayeva
Kyrgyzstan authorities attempted to impose order Tuesday after five people were killed in ethnic riots, officials said, amid mystery over the whereabouts of the country’s ousted president.
Ethnic Kyrgyz rioters Monday seized plots of land from Russians and Turks in Mayevka, a village outside the capital Bishkek, prompting the country’s interim government to send in hundreds of police to quell the unrest.
“The police and internal forces have established order in the village. Forty instigators of the riots have been arrested,” the head of the interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, told reporters.
“All the provocateurs and ringleaders in the riots will be punished to the full extent of the law,” the interim government said in a statement Tuesday.
A source in the Kyrgyz interior ministry told AFP that around 600 police supported by armoured personnel carriers were patrolling Mayevka.
Five people were killed in the rioting, a health ministry spokesman told AFP Tuesday. Earlier the health ministry said three people died from gunshot wounds, including two residents, and 28 people were injured.
Mayevka is home to a mix of Russians, Kyrgyz and Meskhetian Turks, a group that lived in Georgia until 1944 when they were deported to Central Asia by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
“The crowd poured into Mayevka and started wreaking destruction, robbing and killing. They mainly robbed and burned the homes of Turks living in the village,” Alexander Konstantin, a resident, told journalists.
“They killed my neighbour,” Konstantin said. “The rioters spotted him and dragged him into the yard. They beat him to death and mutilated him so that he was unrecognisable.”
Around 18 houses were burnt down and looted, Konstantin said.
Police detained 130 people and 10 police officers were injured, the interior ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
In a chaotic day, the rioters seized land in Mayevka before marching on central Bishkek, witnesses and local media reports said.
In Bishkek they forced the city’s acting mayor, Isa Omurkulov, to sign a document authorising the handover of the land they had seized earlier, the official Kabar news agency reported.
The violence was the latest challenge to the interim government which seized power this month after a popular uprising that ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
So far the interim government has failed to establish full control over the country, a mountainous former Soviet republic which is home to a US air base used to supply operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Bakiyev, the country’s toppled president, was confirmed Monday to have left Kazakhstan, where he was flown last week in an action coordinated by world powers aimed at quelling tensions in Kyrgyzstan.
“Yes, he left,” Kazakh foreign ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov told AFP. But he said it was unclear where he had gone, and no further details on his departure were available.
There has been no confirmation of Bakiyev’s location since his arrival in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz on Thursday.
Bakiyev is wanted by the interim Kyrgyz government in connection with the shootings of demonstrators during the protests in early April that culminated in his overthrow.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who voiced anger over Bakiyev’s ousting, has offered Bakiyev sanctuary in Belarus – but officials in Minsk have in recent days vehemently denied that he has arrived there.
The death toll in the uprising that triggered Bakiyev’s downfall rose to 85 on Monday as another person died in hospital, the Kyrgyz health ministry said.