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Kyrgyztan leader says 2,000 may have died

Kyrgyztan's interim leader Roza Otunbayeva has said the death toll in the country's worst ethnic violence in decades could be as high as 2,000.

Officials say at least 191 people were killed in fighting between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks around Osh and Jalalabad.

But Ms Otunbayeva told a Russian newspaper that the real toll could be “10 times the official figures”.

Meanwhile, a US envoy in the region has called for an investigation into the unrest.

Central Asia envoy Robert Blake made the call while visiting refugees in camps in the Uzbek border city of Andijan on Friday.

About 400,000 people have fled their homes, with many ethnic Uzbeks crossing into Uzbekistan.

Mr Blake is due to travel later to the capital, Bishkek, for talks with Kyrgyz officials.

Ms Otunbayeva made the comments about the death toll in the Kommersant newspaper, saying that the real toll might never be known because of the custom of family burying loved ones as soon as possible.

Ms Otunbeyeva met officials in Osh which she visited on Friday for the first time since the violence.

Speaking in Osh's main square, Ms Otunbayeva said: “I came here to see, to speak with the people and hear first-hand what happened here.”

She rejected criticism of her interim government's handling of the crisis, adding: “We will do everything to rebuild this city.”

The Kyrgyz government had earlier appealed to Russia to send in peacekeeping troops. But Moscow rejected the request, offering instead technical assistance to track those committing the violence.

The Red Cross (ICRC) has described the situation as an “immense crisis”, with shortages of basic necessities.

The unrest last week came two months after the country's former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was forced out of office.

Ms Otunbayeva's government has blamed the former leader for stoking the conflict.

Eyewitnesses say Kyrgyz mobs began attacking people in Uzbek areas of Osh and Jalalabad in the early hours of Friday last week.

About 400,000 people are said to have fled their homes, while another 75,000 100,000 people — not counting children — are thought to have taken refuge in Uzbekistan.

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