MOSCOW — Government forces in Kyrgyzstan clashed with minority Uzbeks near the southern city of Osh on Monday, killing two people and wounding more than 20 others as the authorities sought to take control of barricaded ethnic Uzbek enclaves across the region.
Kyrgyz officials said troops opened fire after entering the village of Nariman after someone shot at them. But witnesses told human rights activists and local news agencies that the Kyrgyz soldiers beat Uzbek residents as they conducted a house-by-house sweep.
The fresh violence in Nariman, where a Kyrgyz police chief and his driver were killed a week ago, underscored the continuing volatility of the region and the intensity of animosity between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks there.
A month before the deadly ethnic clashes that devastated southern Kyrgyzstan last week, a mob loyal to the recently deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, seized the provincial government building and expelled the local governor. The next day, another crowd, supporting the forces that had toppled Bakiyev, recaptured the building and reinstalled the official.
From a distance, the incident hardly seemed significant. Kyrgyzstan’s new interim government appeared to have maintained the status quo.
But the back and forth on May 13-14 was a turning point. Because many in the crowd that prevailed were minority Uzbeks, the struggle for political control of the region began to be seen as a battle for ethnic survival, especially among the Kyrgyz majority. That perception grew in the following weeks, fanned by local politicians as the national authorities in the north struggled to respond.
Now, after an explosion of rioting, killing and rape that has left as many as 2,200 people dead and entire neighborhoods in ruins, two communities that had lived together peacefully for nearly 20 years are boiling with mutual hostility, and the government of this strategically located Central Asian country appears more fragile than ever.