The Kyrgyzstan interim government Sunday extended a state of emergency in the southern city of Osh, as government forces began to pull down barricades erected during riots last week between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. The state of emergency, declared by interim President Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] on June 11, was set to expire on Sunday, but was extended to June 25 to deter fresh violence. Last week, Otunbayeva issued "shoot to kill" orders [JURIST report] to the nation's military as the ethnic conflict [Guardian backgrounder] continued. She also activated the reserves after the Russian government refused a request to send peacekeeping troops. Thousands of Uzbeks have massed at refugee camps on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, refusing to return to their homes in Osh, The ethnic minority fears continued violence and do not trust Kyrgyz troops [AP report] to protect them. The official death toll stood at 191 as of Friday, but Otunbayeva said during an inspection tour to Osh that the real number was likely 10 times higher [Al Jazeera report], as many of the victims were buried quickly in keeping with local tradition.
The violence is thought to have been incited by deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was ousted from power in April [JURIST report], as part of an attempt to delay the June 27 referendum of the country's new constitution. The interim government has accused the former president's son of paying $10 million to finance the violence. Last week, Otunbayeva announced that the referendum seeking approval of the new constitution and a popular mandate for the interim government would be held June 27 despite the ethnic violence. The constitution was approved by the interim government [JURIST report] in May and would shift power from the president to the prime minister, define Kyrgyzstan as a secular state, limit the president to one six-year term in office and increase the number of seats in parliament from 90 to 120.