Kyrgyzstan blames local Uzbek leaders for unrest

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Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday accused leaders of the local Uzbek community and foreign forces of fomenting the deadly ethnic violence that left hundreds dead in its south last year.

The chief investigator heading a commission into the June 2010 clashes between the ethnic Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority said his probe has led to the arrest of several Russian and Uzbek nationals.

"Yes, there is a presence of a third force. There are certain facts," the chairman of the commission Abdygany Erkebayev told reporters.

"But this issue requires a further investigation that involves both politicians and the secret services of Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan," Erkebayev said.

He did not specify how many people had been arrested, saying only that they remained in custody.

But Erkebayev's commission also concluded that several local politicians tried to lead the Uzbeks in an ethnically-driven uprising that targeted the Kyrgyz population.

The commission pointed particular blame on former Kyrgyz deputy Kadyrzhan Batyrov, whom it identified as one of the leaders of the ethnic Uzbek diaspora in Kyrgyzstan.

"The tragic events were provoked not by the Uzbek or the Kyrgyz people, but by people with extremist views," Erkebayev said.

He said Batyrov travelled across the south of the country trying to agitate support for legislative changes that assigned the Uzbek language equal status and instituted ethnic quotas for state jobs.

Batyrov organised more than 25 such meetings in the region, said the investigator, which "irritated the Kygyz and eventually led to the first conflict."

The violence followed the bloody April uprising centred in the capital Bishkek that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who later fled the country and was replaced by an interim government.

Amid an uneasy calm, the country is now ruled by a coalition of nationalists and centrist forces headed by President Roza Otunbayeva.

© 2011 AFP

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