Spiegel Online
June 17, 2010

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With hundreds dead and tens of thousands of refugees, ethnic violence has brought chaos to Kyrgyzstan. Central Asia policy expert Andrea Schmitz told SPIEGEL ONLINE about the history behind the attacks on the Uzbek minority and the wobbly transitional government.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The news from Kyrgyzstan is deeply disturbing. Officially, 170 people have been killed during the angry unrest over the last week and other sources put the death toll above 700. What is the current situation?

Schmitz: Official figures probably understate the number of dead, which is likely to be considerably higher. I do not have the exact numbers. The situation at present is so chaotic no one can reliably count the dead.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Reports say almost all the dead belong to the Uzbek minority.

Schmitz: That appears to be correct. However, it’s also said that those behind the unrest have tried to turn Kyrgyz and Uzbeks against each other. But the violence has clearly focused on the Uzbek minority.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some speculate that the ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was toppled in April, is behind the unrest. Do you consider this plausible?

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