Kyrgyz Conflict an 'Immense Crisis'

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Kyrgyz Conflict an 'Immense Crisis'

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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)

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

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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