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Uzbeks find wreckage on return to Kyrgyzstan

HUMANITARIAN aid is beginning to reach the shattered communities of southern Kyrgyzstan, after ethnic clashes forced 100,000 Uzbeks from their homes, and left hundreds dead (News, 18 June).

A global alliance of church development agencies, ACT Alliance, which includes Christian Aid, has started to hand out aid. It has raised $400,000 so far, but is appealing for a further $800,000. ACT members on the ground have criticised the way the government is distributing aid in the region. They say it is poorly co-ordinated, and not impartial.

Violence was first sparked two weeks ago, when there were clashes in the southern city of Osh, where Uzbek areas were razed to the ground. Survivors have told of gangs roaming areas, raping and killing.

The interim government has blamed supporters of the ousted president, Kur­manbek Bakiyev, for starting the violence in an attempt to destabilise the country, but the real cause is still far from clear. The violent clashes have threatened stability across the whole region.

It is feared that the real death toll could be 2000, as many of those killed were buried almost immediately, in the traditional way.

The Barnabas Trust, an aid agency that supports persecuted Christians, said that Christian pastors in the region were now being threatened with violence for helping Uzbeks.

Kyrgyzstan has a majority-Muslim pop­ulation of about 85 per cent. Christians make up fewer than ten per cent. Most are converts from Islam, and come from both the majority Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek pop­ulations.

Kyrgyzstan had reasonable religious free­dom until a repressive Religious Law was passed last year. The interim government had pledged to reform this.

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