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Kyrgyz Conflict an 'Immense Crisis'

OSH - The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the humanitarian situation in southern Kyrgyzstan as an "immense crisis".

An Uzbek woman who fled the Kyrgyz city of Osh stands at the Uzbekistan border. The official figure of 191 killed during the deadly clashes, which broke out on Friday in the Central Asian nation, is expected to be as much as several hundred. (Photo: AP) The warning by Severine Chappaz, deputy head of the ICRC, came as humanitarian agencies began delivering medical aid, food and shelter to people who have fled the ethnic unrest in Kyrgyzstan.

The official figure of 191 killed during the deadly clashes, which broke out on Friday in the Central Asian nation, is expected to be as much as several hundred.

The Kyrgyz army has tried to regain control of Osh, the epicentre of the violence that drove much of the Uzbek population from the country's poor, rural south.

Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Osh on Thursday, said that the situation in thte city was still very tense.

"The ethnic Uzbek people are terrified of anyone in uniform. Therefore if there is any aid, it is difficult to get it to them," he said.

'Little security'

Anna Neistat, spokeswoman for the emergency unit of Human Rights Watch, said that there was no ethnic fighting anymore, "but there is very little security despite what the authorities claim.

"Tensions in neighbourhoods are rising because people are without food and water".

She was in Osh to investigate allegations of human-right abuses and said that most of those killed were men.

Responding to claims by UN agencies of "an alarming rate" of rapes and killings against children and civilians, Neistat said: "There definitely have been cases of rape, but there is not enough information yet to confirm the reports."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that 200,000 people have been displaced within the country and an additional 75,000 have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan.

Two aircraft carrying hundreds of tents supplied by the UNHCR arrived in Uzbekistan on Wednesday and four more were due to arrive by the end of the week.

Another aircraft carrying relief supplies from the ICRC including blankets, tarpaulins, cooking utensils and soap has arrived in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Thousands stranded

Thousands of displaced people were stranded on the Kyrgyz side of the Uzbek border, unable to cross after Uzbekistan closed the border.

"We are not receiving aid. We are sleeping in the street with the children, even in the rain," Mohidil, a woman in her 40s, said near the border.

Authorities in Osh began cleaning up the streets as basic foodstuffs were being sold from lorries around the city amid a massive military presence.

But in the Uzbek village of Shark, at the entrance to Osh, the few remaining inhabitants, all men, accused authorities of giving food only to ethnic Kyrgyz.

The US has promised Kyrgystan's interim government $800,000 in emergency aid funds and has dispatched Robert Blake, its special envoy, to the country.

Blake was due in the capital Bishkek on Friday and Saturday for talks with the Kyrgyz government.

"There is in fact an emerging humanitarian crisis in Kyrgyzstan and we are prepared to respond further to that," Philip Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said.

Government ill-equipped

The Kyrgyz interim government that replaced Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the toppled president earlier this year, appears to be ill-equipped to deal with the turmoil and unable to control the south.

It blamed Bakiyev for hiring "provocateurs" to instigate the deadly riots and bemoaned a lack of international support, saying: "We were left alone with the enemy in the most difficult days."

Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan's interim president, said she had "no doubt" Bakiyev was to blame.

"His sons have been discussing that they want to organise such a crisis and we thought not of such a scale and not of such a deepness," she told Al Jazeera in an interview on Tuesday.

The country's health ministry said the number of deaths from the clashes could be higher as many families were choosing to bury their dead bypassing official morgues.

The riots were the worst inter-ethnic clashes to hit Kyrgyzstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ethnic Uzbeks make up 14 per cent of the country's population of 5.3 million.

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