Some 100,000 minority Uzbeks fleeing a purge by mobs of Kyrgyz were massed at the border today, as the deadliest ethnic violence to hit this Central Asian nation in decades left a major city smoldering. With fires raging in the southern city of Osh for a fourth day, the official death toll of 124 killed and nearly 1,500 injured from the clashes that began Thursday appeared way too low.
An Uzbek community leader claimed at least 200 Uzbeks alone had already been buried, and the Red Cross said its delegates saw about 100 bodies being buried in just one cemetery. The United States, Russia and the United Nations worked on humanitarian aid airlifts while neighboring Uzbekistan hastily set up camps to handle the flood of hungry, frightened refugees. Most were women, children and the elderly, many of whom Uzbekistan said had gunshot wounds. The interim government, which took over after former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted by a mass revolt in April, has been unable to stop the violence and accused Bakiyev's family of instigating it to halt a June 27 vote. Uzbeks have backed the interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported the toppled president.