Kyrgyzstan in turmoil while Belarus shelters ousted leader

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Outbreaks of violence continue to plague the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, while the country's ousted president surfaced yesterday in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. An interim government is in place after riots earlier in the month forced out Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but the country is still in turmoil as looting, land-grabbing and civil unrest persist.

In Mayevka, not far from the capital Bishkek, residents returned home yesterday after fleeing violent clashes on Monday. Hundreds of youths had arrived wielding sticks and baseball bats, and targeted the homes of ethnic Russians and Meskhetian Turks, an ethnic group deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin.

"They cried 'Kill the Turks!'" said Narkhanium Durstunova, a resident of Mayevka. "There were pools of blood everywhere." Five people were reported dead. Houses and cars were torched, while the attackers had rampaged through homes, slicing up mattresses looking for secret stashes of cash and stealing household appliances. One woman even had her horse stolen.

The attacks appeared linked to demands for arable land to be dished out, as angry locals massed at several points near to the capital demanding that authorities give them land. Mr Bakiyev, who initially fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan, has been welcomed by the temperamental authoritarian leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

The Belarusian leader, who has been dubbed "the last dictator in Europe", may anger Moscow with his sheltering of Mr Bakiyev. Russia was the first country to recognise the new Kyrgyz government.

Additional reporting by Joanna Lillis in Mayevka.

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