Death Toll in Kirghizia Unrest Climbs Over 200
MOSCOW (AP) _ Ethnic rioters burned buildings and attacked a police officer in the Central Asian republic of Kirghizia overnight, leaving four people dead, the Tass news agency said Wednesday.
The latest violence between ethnic Kirghiz and Uzbeks - both Sunni Moslem groups - brought the death toll to 204 since fighting began June 4, the official news agency said.
Ethnic unrest continued along the Armenian-Azerbaijan border in the Caucasus, meanwhile, and Soviet television reported armed bands of Armenians were making forays across the frontier.
At least 200 people have died the past two years in ethnic violence in the Caucasus Mountain republics of Azerbaijan, which is predominantly Shiite Moslem, and Armenia, which is predominantly Christian.
Clashes Tuesday night in Osh, Uzgen and other towns in western Kirghizia left about 100 people injured, including more than 30 people who suffered gunshot and stab wounds, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper called.
Most of the violence took place in Osh, on the republic’s border with Uzbekistan, and in its suburbs, following unsanctioned rallies, Tass said.
″In Osh itself, transport is at a standstill, and industrial enterprises and shops are closed,″ the news agency said. ″Military helicopters are patrolling the city and armored vehicles are posted on crossroads.″
During the night, Tass said, buildings were set ablaze, a policeman was beaten and a submachine gun was taken during an attempt to break up a fight. The weapon was later returned to the military, the news agency said.
According to Tass, the chairman of the Osh regional Executive Committee and the local police chief were replaced Tuesday by the regional authorities. The officials were not identified.
The violence stems from a land dispute between ethnic Kirghiz and Uzbeks in the densely populated region around Osh, where housing is scarce.
Damage from the unrest has been put at $64 million, Komsomolskaya Pravda said.
A state of emergency is in effect in the Osh region, and reinforcements of police and Interior Ministry troops have been sent to the region to quell the violence.
″Today, many towns and settlements look like small military fortresses,″ Komsomolskaya Pravda said.
The newpaper said barbed wire has been placed around settlements to prevent soldiers and police from entering.
″The regional military commandant gave several orders for these fortifications and barbed wire to be destroyed, but no one seems in a hurry to obey these orders,″ the newspaper said.
Soviet Central Asia, with high levels of poverty and unemployment, has been hit repeatedly by violence since President Mikhail S. Gorbachev began to relax central controls.