A desperate appeal for help from a Baptist eyewitness in the embattled Central Asian city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan, raced through Russian-language inboxes and websites on Tuesday.
The author reported uncontrolled mobs of Kyrgyz men roaming the streets and laying waste to entire blocks in the nation's second-largest city of 250,000. An old Uzbek man had been killed and burned near the author's apartment; "mounds" of corpses lined certain streets. "We fear for our lives," wrote the eyewitness. "Hear our desperate cry!"
Officials estimate hundreds died and 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks were displaced in what appeared to be an organized wave of violence following the April 7 overthrow of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a Kyrgyz strongman hailing from the neighboring region of Jalal-Abad and now exiled to Belarus. The interim government blamed pro-Bakiyev forces for the unrest and said it would proceed with a June 27 referendum on a new constitution.
A Charismatic pastor in the country's capital, Bishkek, reported that a fellow pastor has been driving Uzbek families to safety outside of Osh, and that other Kyrgyz Christians have been hiding Uzbek families in their homes. Cordons of gangs or troops keep most people from fleeing, and those caught aiding the Uzbek minority can be counted lucky if they only lose their car. Kyrgyz who refuse to side with their own ethnic group are "severely punished," said the pastor.
The Kyrgyz Baptist Union reported Thursday that its churches in the Uzbek areas of Osh and Jalal-Abad had remarkably escaped damage, thanks to government tanks and soldiers—though criticized for their sparse presence during the rioting—that repelled approaching mobs in the nick of time.
Another Charismatic pastor, Vasily ...1