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Uzbeks aid plea

Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan have made a desperate plea for aid as the full extent of last weekend’s ethnic fighting begins to unfold. As many as a million people may need aid after deadly ethnic violence erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan, the United Nations has warned. The country’s government has struggled to bring back order after clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz gangs.

In the ancient city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second biggest city, 200 people have been killed in the violence. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly women and children, are crammed into makeshift camps in the, many running out of food and water. By this weekend, Osh had started to get back to normal. Buses were running again and the curfews lifted. But across the south of the country, the extent of the damage is hard to hide.

In a town near the border the burnt-out remains of a school which taught the Uzbek language is a lasting reminder of the violence. "They're not people, but animals," said Gulamov Shakhobiden, 31, a former pupil. He told how Kyrgyz soldiers arrived at 8pm on Friday 11 June, punching through a makeshift barricade brandishing automatic weapons. Women and boys followed them throwing petrol bombs. "Those who didn't run were killed,” he told The Observer newspaper. “Those who fell had petrol poured on their heads and were burned alive. "Term had finished, but we had gathered the kids in the classrooms earlier that afternoon because we thought they would be safe there. We only just got them out in time," he said. "They had snipers, were firing at everybody, and we had to run. We managed to save the English class, but none of the others. This was an organised, prepared attack."

The killing started in Osh late on Thursday June 10, possibly triggered by a row between Uzbek and Kyrgyz youths. Then last weekend it spread to the mainly Uzbek town, Jalal-Abad. Aid organisations last week estimated that 400,000 people had been uprooted by the fighting, with 100,000 in Uzbekistan. Little aid has filtered through so far. Uzbeks have said they have so far had none, claiming that it went to the Kyrgyz. Davron, 32, said "So far, we've got nothing – not even a pair of socks," he said. He asked for urgent help from Britain and the US. Uzbeks make up 14 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's 5.3 million population. 

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