US envoy urges independent probe into Kyrgyz riots

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 19, 2010 16:46

 
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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan  — A top US envoy called Saturday for an independent investigation into the violence that has devastated southern Kyrgyzstan, as amateur video emerged of unarmed Uzbeks gathering to defend their village during the attacks.

Prosecutors on Saturday charged Azimzhan Askarov, the head of a prominent human rights group who shot the video, with inciting ethnic hatred. Askarov had accused the military of complicity in the bloody rampages that sent hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks fleeing for their lives.

The country's rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun insisted the charges against Askarov were fabricated, and activists in Bishkek demonstrated before UN offices to demand his release.

Entire Uzbek neighborhoods in southern Kyrgyzstan have been reduced to scorched ruins by rampaging mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz who forced nearly half of the region's roughly 800,000 Uzbeks to flee. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva said up to 2,000 people may have died in the clashes.

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