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DEADLY ETHNIC UNREST ESCALATES IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN

By NBF News
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Violence is spreading in southern Kyrgyzstan on the third day of ethnic fighting which has claimed at least 80 lives.

Witnesses speak of armed Kyrgyz men shooting ethnic Uzbeks and setting property alight.

Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have been fleeing the city of Osh, where a BBC correspondent reports hearing gunfire.

On Saturday the interim government gave security forces shoot-to-kill powers and urged Russia to send in troops.

Moscow says it has no plans to intervene. Both Russia and the United States have military bases in the country.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government extended a state of emergency to cover the entire southern Jalalabad region, as ethnic clashes spread there from neighbouring Osh.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April and now lives in Belarus, has denied accusations from the government that he is involved in the unrest.

Without international assistance there are fears the interim authorities in Kyrgyzstan will struggle to contain the conflict, the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie in Osh reports.

The south of Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet Central Asian state of 5.5 million people, is home to an ethnic Uzbek minority of almost one million.

Uzbek eyewitnesses told our correspondent at a border crossing with Uzbekistan that gangs of armed Kyrgyz had been marauding through neighbourhoods, killing residents and burning homes.

One woman pleaded for help: “We need food, we need water, I have got two sons and they are little and I need water and food to survive.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had received reports of tens of thousands people fleeing fighting and looting.

There have also been reports of Kyrgyz casualties.

One Kyrgyz family the BBC spoke to by telephone said an Uzbek boy armed with a gun shot dead three Kyrgyz men who were approaching them.