Image: Burned out home in Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Victor Drachev  /  AFP - Getty Images
An ethnic Uzbek man holds his head as he stands beside the wreckage of his burned home in Osh on Monday. Mobs of rioters have slaughtered members of the ethnic minority and burned their homes and businesses.
updated 6/14/2010 8:37:44 PM ET 2010-06-15T00:37:44

Standing behind barbed wire with other Uzbek refugees, the woman tearfully raised her hands in a Muslim prayer Monday for her dead husband. She had left his body at their burned-down house in southern Kyrgyzstan while fleeing ethnic riots that reduced much of a major city to ruins.

"He's lying there unburied," lamented the woman, who identified herself only as Khadicha, a doctor in her 50s, as she waited in a no-man's land to cross into Uzbekistan.

She is among tens of thousands of minority Uzbeks who have fled the deadliest violence Kyrgyzstan has seen since the two ethnic groups fought over land 20 years ago as Moscow lost its grip on the former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

In the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, three miles (five kilometers) from the border with Uzbekistan, gunfire pierced the air and fires raged for a fourth day. Officials said 138 people were killed and nearly 1,800 wounded since the violence began last week, but an Uzbek community leader said at least 200 Uzbeks had already been buried, and many bodies had not been recovered from charred homes and businesses.

The United States and Russia, which both have military bases in northern Kyrgyzstan — away from the violence — worked on humanitarian aid airlifts, as did the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council late Monday condemned the violence in Kyrgyzstan and called "for calm, a return of rule of law and order, and a peaceful resolution of differences." The council, in a press statement, noted the need to support the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance and expressed support for the efforts of Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and regional organizations "to deal in an appropriate way with the situation."

Camps to handle refugees
Uzbekistan hastily set up camps to handle the flood of refugees, most of them women, children and the elderly. They were hungry and frightened, with accounts of Uzbek girls being raped and Kyrgyz snipers shooting at them as they rushed to the border. Aid workers said many had suffered gunshot wounds.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which took over when former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in an April uprising in the impoverished country, has been unable to stop the violence and accused Bakiyev's family of instigating it to halt a June 27 referendum on a new constitution. Uzbeks — a minority in Kyrgyzstan as a whole but whose numbers rival the Kyrgyz in the south — have backed the interim government. Many Kyrgyz in the south have supported Bakiyev.

Kyrgyz security chief Kenishbek Duishebayev said Monday evening on television that Bakiyev's younger son, Maxim, was arrested earlier in the day in Britain when he flew into a Hampshire airport on a private plane. Britain's Home Office said it could not comment for legal reasons.

Prosecutors, who placed him on an international wanted list in May, allege that companies he owned avoided almost $80 million in taxes on aviation fuel sold to suppliers of the U.S. air base near the capital of Bishkek that is a crucial supply hub for the coalition fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The violent protests that led to President Bakiyev's ouster were fed by anger over corruption permeating his extended family, which grew wealthy and powerful under his rule. The new government has been under pressure to bring them to justice.

'Well-known person' stoking violence
The government said earlier it had arrested a "well-known person" suspected of stoking the violence, but gave no other details. Suspects from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan were also detained and claimed to have been hired by Bakiyev supporters, government spokesman Farid Niyazov said.

Video: Ethnic rioting erupts in southern Kyrgyzstan

The new leaders had hoped to seal their political and democratic credentials with the referendum, but the likelihood of that vote taking place looked slim.

From self-imposed exile in Belarus, Bakiyev has denied any role in the violence. Speaking to reporters Monday, he again blamed the interim government for not preventing the rioting and called on the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization to send in troops. The new Kyrgyz government asked Russia to send troops, but the Kremlin turned down the request.

Representatives of the CSTO, which includes Kyrgyzstan, met in Moscow and agreed to offer aid to Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies, Russian news agencies said. The aid could include helicopters, military vehicles and fuel, the Russian general secretary of the organization was quoted as telling President Dmitry Medvedev. The reports made no mention of sending troops.

Jallahitdin Jalilatdinov, who heads the Uzbek National Center, told The Associated Press that at least 100,000 Uzbeks were awaiting entry into Uzbekistan, while another 80,000 had crossed the border. The Uzbek government said 45,000 had already been registered.

The refugees were in about 30 camps, said Pascale Meige Wagner, head of operations in Central Asia and Europe for the International Committee of the Red Cross. "The conditions are very difficult," she said in a statement. "The authorities were prepared for about 20,000 to 30,000 coming in, but we are far above this figure."

The ICRC said one of its aid workers visited five refugee camps in the eastern Uzbekistan city of Andijan on Sunday and saw about 40 men with gunshot wounds.

'This is a very dangerous situation'
Khadicha, wearing a Muslim headscarf and a traditional long dress, was among 400 refugees caught in no-man's land near the Uzbek village of Jalal-Kuduk. She carried only a small purse with her documents.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm at the violence and urged authorities to protect all citizens.

"It seems indiscriminate killings, including of children, and rapes have been taking place on the basis of ethnicity," Pillay said in a statement.

"This is a very dangerous situation, given the ethnic patchwork in this part of Kyrgyzstan, as well as in neighboring areas of Uzbekistan," she said. "It has been known for many years that this region is a potential tinder box, and for that reason it is essential that the authorities act firmly to halt the fighting — which appears to be orchestrated, targeted and well-planned — before it spreads further inside Kyrgyzstan or even across the border into neighboring countries."

The fertile Ferghana Valley, where Osh and Jalal-Abad are located, once belonged to a single feudal lord, but was divided by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, rekindling old rivalries.

In June 1990, hundreds were killed in a land dispute between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, and only the quick deployment of Soviet troops quelled the fighting. A year later, the Soviet Union collapsed, and new tensions rose between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan over distribution of water for irrigation, natural gas and electricity.

The influx of refugees to the Uzbek part of the Ferghana Valley could worsen high unemployment and poverty in the overpopulated region.

'There is nothing to fear'
Uzbeks make up 15 percent of Kyrgyzstan's 5 million people and are generally better off economically, but they have few representatives in power and have pushed for broader political and cultural rights. Both ethnic groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Few police or troops were seen on the streets of Osh, a city of 250,000. In the Anoshin neighborhood, a unit from the national police academy was working with representatives of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities to restore calm.

"I'm telling all the Uzbeks there is nothing to fear," Kyrgyz representative Orunbai Suleimanov told AP Television News. "I'm not going to touch anyone even with my finger and the others will behave like this as well."

Food and water were scarce after armed looters smashed stores, stealing everything from TVs to food. Cars stolen from ethnic Uzbeks raced around the city, most crowded with young Kyrgyz wielding sharpened sticks, axes and metal rods.

In the mainly Uzbek district of Aravanskoe, an area of shops and restaurants, whole streets were burned to the ground. In one smoldering building, an AP photographer saw three charred bodies.

Hundreds gathered at Osh's central square to get on buses for the airport. Gunmen have made the road from the city to the airport too dangerous to tackle alone.

Osh Police Chief Kursan Asanov told AP that 950 foreigners — mostly Russians, Pakistanis, Indians and Africans — have been evacuated since disturbances began, as well as Uzbek and Kyrgyz residents.

Mosque converted into hospital
In the village of Sura-Tash, ethnic Uzbeks converted a mosque into a makeshift hospital. Health workers treated anyone who came in with wounds from beatings or ordinary conditions such as heat exhaustion and diabetes. Vodka was used to sterilize medical equipment and powdered plaster was melted down to use as casts for broken limbs.

Some Uzbeks said the Kyrgyz attackers seemed to have the support of the military.

"Many people have died, snipers fired from more than one kilometer away, and organized gangs followed the military as they drove in with armored personnel carriers," said Lutsalla Khakimov, a doctor working at the mosque. "This was organized, they wanted to start a war."

As the clashes continued, desperately needed aid began trickling into the south. Several planes arrived at Osh's airport with tons of medical supplies from the World Health Organization. Trucks carried supplies into the city with an armed escort. The ICRC said one planeload of medical supplies had been flown to Osh and 12 more would be arriving in coming days.

The U.S. had a shipment of tents, cots and medical supplies ready to fly to Osh from its Manas air base in Bishkek, the U.S. Embassy said. The air base said it had also gathered food and fuel that would be delivered to Osh.

The State Department said the U.S. has committed $600,000 in immediate humanitarian assistance and identified an additional $200,000 in medical and emergency supplies that will be distributed.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

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  1. Kyrgyz men carry the body of an unidentified person killed during fierce ethnic clashes in the southern city of Osh, on Tuesday, June 22. Thirty-three bodies were buried in Osh. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ethnic Uzbek people walk with their belongings on the outskirts of Osh as they return from Uzbekistan on Tuesday. Thousands of refugees who fled to Uzbekistan to avoid ethnic bloodshed trekked back to burned-out homes in Kyrgyzstan ahead of a vote on how the Central Asian state will be governed. (Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Kyrgyz Interior Ministry servicemen search a house and local residents in the city of Osh on Monday, June 21. Kyrgyz forces started removing barriers dividing the city of Osh on Sunday as the government extended a state of emergency in some regions where up to 2,000 people have been killed in ethnic clashes. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A group of detained ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz citizens suspected of storing drugs and the weapon are detained during house-to-house searches in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on Monday. Kyrgyz government forces swept into an ethnic Uzbek village on Monday, beating men and women with rifle butts in an assault that left at least two dead and more than 20 wounded, witnesses told The Associated Press.The allegations were among the strongest Uzbek claims of official collusion in ethnic rampages that killed as many as 2,000 people last week and forced nearly half of the region's roughly 800,000 Uzbeks to flee the region. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. An ethnic Uzbek woman cries as she stands amid the debris of her family house burnt down during fierce ethnic clashes in the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalalabad on Monday. (Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Kyrgyz and Uzbeks residents receive humanitarian aid under a Soviet-era statue of Lenin on a central square in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh on Tuesday. (Sergei Grits / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An ethnic Uzbek woman cries as she holds a photo of a killed relative during a peace rally to call on ethnic Uzbeks to pull down a barricade between Uzbek and Kyrgyz districts in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, on Saturday, June 19. Entire Uzbek neighborhoods of southern Kyrgyzstan have been reduced to scorched ruins by rampaging mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz. (Victor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Kyrgyz refugees stand by their tent at sunset on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near the village of Dostukh outside Osh on June 19. Officials and aid agencies say the clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have killed up to 2,000 people and forced nearly half of the region's roughly 800,000 Uzbeks to flee. (Victor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ethnic Uzbek men prepare to stay overnight at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border near the southern Kyrgyz village of Sakaldy on June 19. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Elder ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz citizens listen as Kyrgyz police stand guard, during peace negotiations on June 19. (Victor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Ethnic Uzbek men gather at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border near the southern Kyrgyz village of Sakaldy on June 19. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Uzbek refugees cross the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on their way back to Kyrgyzstan near the village of Vlksm outside Osh on June 18. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kyrgyzstan's interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, is flanked by a bodyguard and an unidentified official upon her arrival in Osh on June 18. Kyrgyzstan's interim leader flew to the country's south in a bid to calm tensions. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Charity society volunteers repack food for distribution in Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan, on June 18. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Ethnic Uzbeks cross the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border as they return to Kyrgyzstan near the southern city of Osh on June 17. (Sergei Grits / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Ethnic Uzbeks walk among homes destroyed during clashes in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on June 17. (Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. An ethnic Uzbek woman and her relative wait to to board a plane for Bishkek at the airport in the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad on June 17. (Zarip Toroev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Uzbek men build a barricade to protect from more attacks on their houses in the city of Osh. A coalition of former Soviet republics was planning to send military experts to Kyrgyzstan. The experts are trained in preventing riots, identifying instigators and hunting terrorists, according to the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, Nikolai Bordjusha. (Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Children seen through a bus window leave the southern city of Osh for the airport The U.N. estimates the ethnic clashes have displaced around 400,000 people, with some 100,000 fleeing across the border into neighboring Uzbekistan. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Uzbek women cry in the village of Nariman outside Osh at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on June 16. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Following days of fierce fighting, Kyrgyz army volunteers patrol from the back of a truck on the outskirts of the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Uzbek men cry near the remains of a destroyed house in the village of Shark outside Osh. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Uzbek men pray during a funeral in Osh. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Uzbeks, fleeing from clashes in Jalalabad Region, are seen at a refugee camp in Kara-Su near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border some 249 miles east of Tashkent on Wednesday. (Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Uzbek women drink water at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border near the village of Nariman outside Osh on Wednesday. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People help an elderly Uzbek man in front of his burnt-out house in Osh on Tuesday, June 15. Uzbekistan closed its border to refugees fleeing the deadly violence in Kyrgyzstan, some of whom have accused government forces of helping armed gangs slaughter ethnic Uzbeks. (Viktor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Wounded refugees drive to the Uzbek border from the district of Osh Nariman, Kyrgyzstan on June 15 to escape the violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks that has left at least 170 people dead. The country's interim government has said a national referendum on constitutional reform will go ahead on June 27. (Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. An ethnic Uzbek mother holds her son as they wait at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border outside a village of Suratash, about 9 miles south of Osh, on Monday, June 14. (Oxana Onipko / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Kyrgyz special forces prepare their rifles in a vehicle preparing to lead a convoy from the airport to the center of the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, Monday. The deadliest ethnic violence to hit this Central Asian nation in decades left a major city smoldering. (Sergei Grits / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A wounded Uzbek man who fled from Kyrgyzstan is helped to a line of refugees near the Uzbek village of Jalal-Kuduk, on Monday, June 14. Tens of thousands of refugees fled clashes that began in southern Kyrgyzstan. (Anvar Ilyasov / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. An Uzbek woman weeps as she waits to cross into Uzbekistan near the village of Jalal-Kuduk on Monday. The woman, whose family was killed in clashes, fled from the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh. (Anvar Ilyasov / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. An Uzbek woman cries as she stands beside the wreckage of her burned-out home in Osh on Monday. Deadly battles raged in Osh where bodies littered the streets as ethnic violence escalated and Uzbekistan raced to cope with a massive refugee influx. (Victor Drachev / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Uzbek men rest near a victim of the ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday, June 13. (Igor Kovalenko / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Uzbek men prepare graves for victims of the ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday. (Igor Kovalenko / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Government troops patrols the streets in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday. (Igor Kovalenko / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Smoke rises from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on Saturday, June 12. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Uzbeks cross the border from southern Kyrgyzstan into Uzbekistan on Saturday. (Oleg Nekrasov / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Soldiers and security officers assist Uzbeks, fleeing southern Kyrgyzstan, to cross the border into Uzbekistan on Saturday. Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, Osh, slid into chaos Friday when gangs of young Kyrgyz men wielding firearms and metal rods marched into Uzbek neighborhoods and set fire homes and buildings. Thousands of terrified ethnic Uzbeks fled toward the nearby border with Uzbekistan. (D. Dalton Bennett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Uzbeks gather near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in southern Kyrgyzstan, on Saturday. (D. Dalton Bennett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Servicemen drive armored vehicles in the city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan on Friday, June 11. At least 12 people were killed and 126 were wounded during the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan on Friday, the Health Ministry said. (Alexei Osokin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Men walk past a burning building in the city of Osh on Friday. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. People argue in the streets of Osh on Friday. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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