19 Jun 2010

High Kyrgyzstan toll feared

6:23 am on 19 June 2010

The interim leader of Kyrgyzstan says as many as 2000 people may have been been killed in last week's ethnic trouble in the south of the country.

Roza Otunbayeva told a Russian newspaper that the real toll could be "10 times the official figures".

She said the real toll might never be known because of the custom of family burying loved ones as soon as possible.

Ms Otunbeyeva travelled to Osh on Friday, seeking to ease tensions between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities.

The BBC reports about 400,000 people have fled their homes, with many ethnic Uzbeks crossing into Uzbekistan since the trouble began on 10 June.

Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet state in central Asia.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April and now lives in Belarus, has denied accusations from the government that he is involved in the unrest in order to derail a constitutional referendum on 27 June and elections scheduled for October.

The BBC reports Mr Bakiyev had strong support in southern Kyrgyzstan.

The clashes are the worst ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan since 1990, when deadly clashes were suppressed by the Soviet authorities.