Mon, May 16, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Witnesses see hundreds killed in Uzbekistan fighting

AGENCIES , FERGANA, UZBEKISTAN AND BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN

About 500 bodies have been laid out in a school in the eastern Uzbek city where troops fired on a crowd of protesters to put down an uprising, a doctor in the town said yesterday, corroborating witness accounts of hundreds killed in the fighting.

The doctor, who spoke by telephone on condition of anonymity, said that Andizhan's School No. 15 was guarded by soldiers. Residents of the town were coming to identify dead relatives from among the dead, whom the doctor saw placed in rows.

The doctor, regarded as widely knowledgeable about local affairs, said she believed some 2,000 people were wounded in the clashes on Friday but it was unclear how she had arrived at her estimate.

Andizhan officials were trying to reach a nearby airport to escape the unrest, she said, while some organizers of the uprising were trying to flee to nearby Kyrgyzstan. There were no more protesters in the square at the center of the uprising, the doctor said.

Abdugapur Dadaboyev, an Uzbek rights activist who visited Andizhan on Saturday, said he saw dead bodies in police and military uniforms lying in the streets as of late evening. Civilians' bodies, in contrast, were quickly removed from the streets, he said.

Russia's state-run Channel One television showed footage of uniformed men with rifles slung over their shoulders carrying a corpse toward a truck, and of a dead man lying face-down on a street, his head thrust between the bars of a fence and his legs still straddling an old bicycle. It said the video was shot on Saturday.

Dadaboyev said that two local officials who had been among the hostages seized in Andizhan were buried on Saturday in the nearby town of Asaka.

Following the day of violence in Andizhan, some 5,000 angry protesters swarmed the streets of the town of Korasuv on the border with Kyrgyzstan on Saturday, looting and burning official buildings, torching police cars and assaulting local officials.

Participants in the protest accused the government of failing to improve living conditions. The town that straddles the river border was split in two following the 1991 Soviet collapse, and two years ago Uzbek officials dismantled a bridge as part of their effort to impose new restrictions on traders.

The move has vexed Korasuv residents, who depended on a big market on the Kyrgyz side of the border to earn their living. Many people have drowned while trying to cross the river using ropes.

Korasuv residents quickly rebuilt the metal bridge and scores of jubilant traders flooded to the market yesterday.

At another section of the border, some 6,000 Uzbeks sought to cross to Kyrgyzstan to get shelter following the violence in Andizhan.

Kyrgyzstan has opened a camp for refugees fleeing from its western neighbor.

"A refugee camp has been put in place in the region of Jalal-Abad to offer indispensible aid to Uzbek citizens," the press office for Kyrgyzstan's emergencies ministry said.

The camp already housed some 600 people, many of them injured.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCHR) has sent representatives to the region to evaluate the situation, said Jerzy Skuratowicz, an official with the UN's Development Program.

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