Thursday 23 November 2017

Kyrgyzstan death toll at 2,000, says leader

Richard Orange in Bishkek

The scale of death and displacement during Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence is believed to be much higher than official estimates with up to 2,000 victims and one million homeless.

Roza Otunbayeva, the interim president, visited the city of Osh -- the epicentre of the violence -- and said the number of fatalities was likely to be 10 times the official death toll of 223. The UN warned it was preparing to give long-term assistance to one million people.

Mrs Otunbayeva arrived in Osh by helicopter to inspect the damage inflicted by mobs that her government accuses toppled president Kurmanbek Bakiyev of organising.

She said many of the victims were buried before sunset on first day of the fighting. "I would increase by 10 times the official data on the number of people killed," Mrs Otunbayeva added.

A UN aid airlift into Kyrgyzstan was scheduled to begin this weekend. Two planes carrying 80 tonnes of relief items are expected to arrive in Osh.

The news of the worsening humanitarian crisis came as a row was brewing between the Kyrgyz government and Britain over the whereabouts of the son of the ousted president.

Kyrgyzstan threatened to shut down a strategic US airbase unless he was extradited.

Maxim Bakiyev, who was questioned at Farnborough airport near London last Sunday, is the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant to face charges of corruption and misusing state funds.

Extradition

Britain does not have extradition arrangements with Kyrgyzstan but the UK government has said it is open to sending Mr Bakiyev back to his homeland.

However, Kyrgyz officials fear Mr Bakiyev will successfully claim asylum.

"England never gives up people who arrive on its territory. But since England and the US fight terrorism, and the arrangement with the airbase is one of the elements of that fight, then they must give over Maxim Bakiyev," said Azimbek Beknazarov, deputy leader of the provisional government.

Mr Bakiyev has close associations to the Manas airbase, which the US uses as a key transportation hub for servicemen engaged in the war in Afghanistan. He emerged as one of Kyrgyzstan's most powerful businessmen during his father's rule.

A spokesman for the British Home Office said it could not comment on whether or not Mr Bakiyev was still in detention. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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