Monday: Thousands Flee Kyrgyzstan; Mineral Wealth Found in Afghanistan

BY Tom LeGro  June 14, 2010 at 10:00 AM EDT

Ethnik Uzbeks cross the border into Uzbekistan as they flee from the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

At least 124 people have been killed and some 100,000 minority Uzbeks are massing at the border after three days of ethnic fighting in Kyrgyzstan, according to reports on Monday.

Another 1,500 are believed to have been injured from the clashes that began Thursday. It is the worst violence to hit the central Asian nation in decades. Entire blocks of the city of Osh have been burned to the ground.

An Uzbek community leader claimed at least 200 Uzbeks alone had already been buried, reports the Associated Press, and the International Committee of the Red Cross said its delegates saw about 100 bodies being buried in just one cemetery.

Tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have erupted before, most recently in April, but fighters on both sides said they believed these riots had been orchestrated for political reasons, reports the New York Times.

The provisional government has accused former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April, of provoking the violence in order to wrest back control. Bakiyev, who is in exile in Belarus, said he has played no role in the violence.

A senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that the administration “was in ‘extremely close communication with the Russians’ and trying to coordinate a response through the United Nations or another international institution. But he said it was too early to speculate about military intervention.”

The United States and Russia both have military bases in northern Kyrgyzstan. Russia is reported to be considering a request for help from the interim government but is unwilling to act alone, reports the BBC.

The Economist explains “what lies behind the violence in Kyrgyzstan”:

The Fergana Valley, where most of the killing happened, was divided arbitrarily by Stalin in the 1920s among Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. As a result, the Kyrgyz Soviet republic was left with a sizeable Uzbek population, the Uzbek Soviet republic with a Tajik population, and so on. While the Soviet Union existed and the republics were part of the same country, this made little practical difference. But when the Soviet Union fell apart, these artificially created borders became final, separating newly independent states and fomenting ethnic tensions.

Report: Trillion in Mineral Wealth Found in Afghanistan

According to a New York Times report, the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, according to senior American government officials:

“The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.”

In different report on the region, research issued by the London School of Economics says Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to train, fund and arm the Taliban in Afghanistan despite U.S. pressure to sever ties with the group. The report, issued Sunday, says interviews with insurgent commanders indicate the agency is even represented on the Afghan Taliban’s main leadership council. Pakistan denied the claims.

Israel Approves Flotilla Investigation

Israel on Monday approved an investigation into its navy’s deadly raid on a flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian aid activists bound for blockaded Gaza. Bowing to pressure, Israel agreed to add two high-ranking foreign observers to the probe: David Trimble, a Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, and Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, retired Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin.

New Iraqi Parliament Meets

Iraq’s new parliament convened a session Monday for the first time since inconclusive elections in March. More than 65 percent of the new parliamentarians are newcomers.
NPR explains the session:

The new members are being met with incredibly low expectations, but the challenges they face are still huge. Major legislation like the oil law — to determine how production and profits of the country’s vast oil wealth will be shared — still needs to be resolved. In addition, jobs need to be created, and Iraq’s devastated infrastructure still needs to be revamped.