Death Toll in Central Asia Reaches 116
MOSCOW (AP) _ A day of mourning was declared today in the Central Asian republic of Kirghizia, where the death toll after a week of ethnic clashes rose to 116, the official Soviet news agency Tass reported.
Tass said the situation in the Soviet republic was quieter after a week of bloody clashes between Uzbeks and Kirghiz over a land dispute.
″A trend toward the stabilization of the situation in the republic’s southern region has become apparent,″ Tass said, quoting Kirghizia’s Interior Ministry.
In the city of Osh, where the fighting began on June 2, shops reopened and public transport was returning to normal schedules, Tass said. The 3,000-year- old city of 210,000 people is near Kirghizia’s border with Uzbekistan.
The news agency said that 116 people died, 468 were wounded and at least 500 acts of arson were committed in the week of clashes between the Sunni Moslem groups.
In memory of the dead, Tass said, ″flags are flying at half-mast and all recreational and entertainment activities have been suspended.″
It was the latest ethnic violence to trouble the government of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Nationalities in various republics have used the looser atmosphere under Gorbachev’s reforms to vent frustrations over political and economic woes.
The Kirghizian capital of Frunze was also calm today. Television and radio broadcast somber music in commemoration of the dead instead of regular programming, said Albert Bogdanov, a journalist with Kirtag news agency.
The journalist said, however, that in nearby Uzgen, which is predominantly Uzbek, tensions remained high. He had no further details.
On Sunday, students trying to organize rallies in Frunze’s main square were turned back by Interior Ministry troops and police, according to Ivan Pavlov, a party official in the capital.
Rallies in Frunze last week turned into demonstrations against the republic’s leaders. Thousands of students demanded their resignations and called on residents to join the battle in Osh against the Uzbek population.
Officials from the Communist Party and the government visited student and worker dormitories early Sunday to persusade them not to hold rallies, he said.
Armored personnel carriers continued to patrol the main streets of Frunze today in districts where trouble had broken out earlier, Bogdanov said from the region.
The Soviet army newspaper Red Star said Sunday that since the fighting flared, 512 people were arrested, including 47 for curfew violations and 11 for possession of firearms.
The violence started when Uzbeks, who make up one-third of the population, discovered that Kirghiz were being given land for housing, which is critically short in the densely populated and poor region of Central Asia.
The fighting spread to districts around Osh, and thousands of troops were sent in to reinforce the local police. Soviet troops sealed off the border to prevent thousands of Uzbeks from crossing into Kirghizia to join the battle, and curfews were imposed in the region, including Osh, Frunze and border areas inside Uzbekistan.