As eyewitness accounts reach the outside world, evidence emerges that once riots began in the multiethnic city of Osh (Kyrgyzstan), a number of renegade military units joined the violence and carried out some of the ethnic purges of Uzbek civilians seen earlier this week and over the weekend. This may explain why the military was “unable” to stop the violence for several days and seemed to lose control of the situation to the point where Kyrgyz mobs had suddenly gained access to armored transport vehicles from the troops deployed to restore order.
The accounts from the people of Shai-Tubeh [an Uzbek neighborhood of Osh] and numerous other reports by witnesses lend powerful credence to suspicions of organized violence, pointing to rogue elements of the Kyrgyz government and military. The involvement of even a faction of the military could be a sign that the interim Kyrgyz government is not in complete control.
Shai-Tubeh does not seem to be an isolated case. On Wednesday, at a mosque near the border with Uzbekistan that is now sheltering ethnic Uzbek refugees, several people from other areas of Osh described similar scenes of neighborhoods and houses being assaulted by men in uniform using Kyrgyz military vehicles, arms and matériel.
A doctor at the shelter, Halisa Abdurazakova, 37, said that residents of her neighborhood had blocked the main road with large boulders and other objects after the violence started. But a Kyrgyz Army tank soon arrived, she said, and pushed aside the debris, allowing gunmen in an armored personnel carrier to drive through and start shooting.
Assuming this is definitely what happened (the government of course denies any military involvement), the question now becomes how far up the rogue status exists in the chain-of-command and whether or not the provisional government is in danger of a military coup that would probably inevitably lead to further acts of genocide in southern Kyrgyzstan. If high level officers are involved or sympathetic to the Kyrgyz ethnic supremacist cause, they may even have compelled the civilian provisional government to rescind the request for Russian peacekeeping troops, since the cancellation of that request came rather unexpectedly on Tuesday during a lull in the killings.
According the article, Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan are an overall minority of 15%, but are concentrated in the regions near the border with Uzbekistan where the violence occurred and tend to be more economically well-off (or perceived as such) by the majority Kyrgyz population. According to early reports from United Nations investigators, the violence against the Uzbek population appears to have been partially planned, not random or spur-of-the-moment. It is not the first time ethnic violence has hit the region, but this was somewhat systematic, resulting in over 100,000 refugees and over one hundred killed within days.
This post originally appeared at Starboard Broadside.