'They uncovered my son – he had a bullet through the heart'

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Dilshod Mamadaliyev had ordered his teenage son not to join the other young men who went out armed only with sticks to defend their village when ethnic violence broke out in Kyrgyzstan. But the 40-year-old electrician could not watch his son all the time.

While he was busy helping other victims fleeing from violence that began last week, his son appears to have left their home as a tank, followed be an armed mob, drove into a nearby village.

"I came home and he wasn't there," said Mr Mamadaliyev yesterday. "Then some guys called and said he had been shot. I set off for the hospital. Then there were some people shouting: 'Dilshod, Dilshod – it's your son.'"

A car coming the other way stopped with a covered body inside. "They uncovered his face and it was him. He had a bullet through the heart," said Mr Mamadaliyev.

His son, Abdumutalib, was aged 16. He was an able student and enjoyed working with his hands at a furniture workshop. It was the sort of work that he planned for his future. "What had he seen in his 16 years? He hadn't seen anything," said Mr Mamadaliyev.

At his home in the village of Vlksm, close to the border with Uzbekistan, Mr Mamadaliyev's wife was too grief-stricken to talk. Other men from the village came to his house to pray in the courtyard.

Mr Mamadaliyev went to fetch his son's newly-obtained passport. He showed me the photograph inside of a dark-haired boy with the first showings of a moustache.

Mr Mamadaliyev does not know who killed his son. People in the village talked of seeing men in uniforms, but it was not clear if they were soldiers, or were wearing military uniforms that had been stolen, or bought, which is common around here.

"I kept telling them, guys you can't go against a tank with a wooden stick," said Mr Mamadaliyev. "But I was busy with guests in the house, with refugees. And I left him [Abdumutalib] without supervision for only half an hour but that was all it took for his blood to flow."

He is struggling to find some meaning for his son's death. "He died for his people, defending his ethnic group. That's what I think. Since they've done this, that's what I have to think. It's inhuman."

Mr Mamadaliyev says that some of his Kyrgyz colleagues have telephoned him to offer their condolences for his loss, but he says he has no wish to avenge the death of his son with the killing of an ethnic Kyrgyz.

He has only one comfort. "It's good I buried him with my own hands," he said. "There are people who have had the corpse at home for a week but they can't bury it. If they try to go to the cemetery, which is five or six kilometres away, people shoot at them."