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Ethnic violence spurs relief assessment

SINGAPORE (BP)–Baptist Global Response is assessing relief needs stemming from the outbreak of ethnic violence in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

On June 10, violence erupted between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh. Overnight, thousands of people fought with sticks, steel rods and guns. Over the course of several days the violence spread throughout the city and into surrounding areas. The government says as many as 2,000 people have been killed and that many more injured, according to news reports.

The conflict drove at least 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks from their homes, toward neighboring Uzbekistan. The refugees, mostly women and children, are living in tent camps on both sides of the border, afraid to return to their homes.

Uzbeks have accused the mostly ethnic Kyrgyz security forces of collusion with the attacking mobs and continuing violence against Uzbeks who have not left their homes, the Associated Press reported. A military spokesman, however, said troops are conducting security sweeps aimed at people suspected of illegal arms possession and stirring up riots.

Baptist Global Response is coordinating with field partners to get an accurate assessment of needs, said Francis Horton, who with his wife Angie directs BGR work in Central and South Asia.

“BGR International will lead a multi-organization assessment team that is planning to be on the ground by the weekend,” Horton said. “They will define ongoing needs and assist field partners to begin to put together a plan of response to this tragedy.

“Relief supplies are beginning to come into the Osh area but security problems are still hampering distribution,” Horton added. “There are reports of some refugees and internally displaced people beginning to return to their homes.

“Many who did not leave their homes during the violence are still barricaded in their neighborhoods,” Horton said. “More than 1 million people have been affected, directly and indirectly, by the violence.”
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at www.gbgr.org.

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