A state of emergency has been declared in southern Kyrgyztsan following what authorities are portraying as ethnic violence. On May 19, several thousand ethnic Kyrgyz tried to storm a private university in Jalal-Abad that serves as a center of the minority Uzbek community, sparking a clash that left at least two people dead and more than 70 wounded. Witnesses said gunfire broke out as crowds approached the building encircled by a cordon of special security forces. It was not clear who opened fire, but health officials said most of the injured appeared to be from the crowd. Many see an effort to restore ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev behind the outburst.
On May 14, a local Uzbek community leader, Kadyrjan Batyrov of the Rodina (Motherland) Party, rallied his supporters to help take back the Jalal-Abad provincial government headquarters from Bakiyev supporters who had seized and occupied it days earlier. That night, unknown assailants burned down the Bakiyev family compound in the nearby village of Teyit.
The home of a local noteworthy named “Black Aibek” was also torched in the Teyit attack. Local sources maintain Aibek was released from prison a few years ago to counter the influence of Batyrov.
Kyrgyzstan has been struggling to maintain stability since Bakiyev was ousted in April. In an apparent bid to secure its grip on power, the interim government named its head, Roza Otunbayeva, as the acting president on May 18—a move that requires approval in a constitutional referendum, set for next month. Bakiyev fled the country last month and now lives in exile in Belarus. (IPS, AP, May 23; EurasiaNet, May 19)