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Violence ‘Abating’ in Kyrgyzstan as Interim Leader Visits Stricken City

June 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: We return to Central Asia now, where the violence in Kyrgyzstan is abating, but hostile feelings between ethnic groups may be hardening.

Judy Woodruff has our story.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The interim president of Kyrgyzstan made her first visit today to the stricken city of Osh since the violence erupted a week ago. Roza Otunbayeva said 2,000 people may have been killed, 10 times earlier estimates.

ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, leader, Interim Government of Kyrgyzstan (through translator): By all means, we have to give hope that we shall restore the city, return all the refugees and create all the conditions for that. I think the entire world will be helping us, because we two peoples, ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, have the goodwill to live in peace and friendship together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Osh sits near the border with Uzbekistan. Whole sections of the city were burned down gangs of Kyrgyz men stormed minority Uzbek neighborhoods. Four hundred thousand people fled the violence, taking refuge in camps on both sides of the now mostly closed border.

Those who have tried to return home have found little left in the way of food or shelter.

KEMJAKHAN TADJIBAYEVA, Kyrgyzstan (through translator): No one has helped us yet, not even the governor. No one has come to see us. Only our neighbors have helped us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for $71 million in emergency aid. And U.N. officials said one million people may need humanitarian assistance.

Kyrgyzstan is also home to a key U.S. air base at Manas in the north that supplies operations in Afghanistan. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake toured one of the refugee camps inside Uzbekistan today.

ROBERT BLAKE, U.S. assistant secretary of state: The United States supports an investigation into the cause of the violence that took place and is still occurring in Southern Kyrgyzstan, so that everyone can better understand why this happened, and so that this can be prevented in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kyrgyzstan has been in turmoil since a violent uprising overthrew the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, in April. The interim government blames Bakiyev and his sympathizers for inciting this new crisis.