Kyrgyzstan Refugees Start to Return to Their Homes

Refugees who had fled the brutal ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan began crossing back over the border with Uzbekistan on Friday, indicating that the humanitarian crisis in the region might be stabilizing. Even so, the United Nations said that more than one million people might need assistance.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of ethnic Uzbeks who had been living in recent days in tent camps in Uzbekistan walked through a checkpoint ringed with barbed wire. The vast majority were women, children and the elderly who left areas of southern Kyrgyzstan that came under attack from the Kyrgyz military and Kyrgyz mobs, New York Times informs.

The official death toll after eight days of violence is around 200, but interim Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva says the actual figure may be five times higher; an exact count lost in the chaos. Businesses have been looted and burned. Homes have also been set ablaze.

The United Nations estimates as many as 400,000 people have been driven from the area. There are also numerous reports of young girls being raped, Voice of America says.

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