World News

Factbox: Ethnic tinderbox of south Kyrgyzstan

(Reuters) - At least 17 people were killed on Friday when ethnic conflict flared up again in Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city Osh, the worst outbreak of violence in the Central Asian state since the president was overthrown in April.

The interim government, led by Roza Otunbayeva, declared a state of emergency in four southern regions and sent troops and armored vehicles to quell the violence.

Here are some details on Kyrgyzstan’s flashpoint area where hundreds have been killed in unrest in the last 20 years:


-- Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous, landlocked former Soviet republic bordering China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

-- A conflict between Uzbeks and minority Meskhetian Turks in Uzbekistan, which started as a market dispute about the price of strawberries, killed 103 people 1989.

-- Arbitrary Soviet borders, which have stranded enclaves of Uzbeks and Tajiks in Kyrgyzstan, and Tajiks in Uzbekistan, contributed to heavy Uzbek-Kyrgyz riots months later in 1990.

-- Osh, capital of the south and Kyrgyzstan’s second city, saw most of the clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

-- Around 300 were killed in the Osh massacre -- sparked by land disputes -- before Moscow brought in troops to separate the warring sides.

-- In 2005, riots broke out initially in the southern town of Jalalabad as opposition activists denounced presidential election results. Osh fell to opposition control as protests swept across the country’s south to demand the resignation of President Askar Akayev, a northerner.

-- The Akayev government fell on March 24, 2005. Opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev became acting president and prime minister and Akayev fled to Moscow. Bakiyev in July 2005 won a landslide victory in a presidential election described as free and fair by Western monitors.


-- The densely populated Fergana valley is largely ethnically Uzbek but is split between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The region suffered greatly from the nationalities policy of the 1930s that transformed the previously interconnected areas into something like a puzzle.

-- In general, Uzbekistan holds the valley floor, Tajikistan holds its narrow mouth and Kyrgyzstan holds the high ground around.

-- The valley mouth is narrow, but the actual valley is vast, covering 22,000 sq km (8,500 sq miles) and the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains that rise above are only dimly visible.

-- The Fergana Valley zone includes the Osh, Jalalabad and Batken districts of Kyrgyzstan, the Andijan, Namangan and Fergana districts of Uzbekistan and the Sogdiskaya district of Tajikistan.

-- The valley is a major center of cotton and silk production, and the hills above are covered by walnut forests. The valley also has some oil and gas.

-- Poverty is widespread. Islamic militancy has deep roots.


-- The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) that emerged from the Fergana Valley has cooperated with the Tajik United Opposition, Al-Qaeda elements and the Afghan Taliban with the aim of establishing an Islamic Caliphate. It is active in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

-- Hizb ut-Tahrir, another outlawed Islamist group, says ideas of Islamic rule are beginning to catch on in Osh. The city has long been synonymous with a post-Soviet rise of radical Islamism in the largely agrarian, cotton-growing region. There are no accurate figures on membership of the group. Some estimates put it at 8,000 in Kyrgyzstan alone.