(Edited from AP, Osh) Kyrgyzstan’s weak military attempted Wednesday to regain control of the city of Osh, a major transit point for Afghan heroin and the epicenter of ethnic violence that has driven much of the Uzbek population from the country’s poor, rural south.

Troops encircled the city with checkpoints and held the central square, but citizens reported that some soldiers also were looting food aid, casting doubt on the government’s ability to re-establish stability after nearly a week of brutal attacks.

(Edited from AP, Osh) Kyrgyzstan’s weak military attempted Wednesday to regain control of the city of Osh, a major transit point for Afghan heroin and the epicenter of ethnic violence that has driven much of the Uzbek population from the country’s poor, rural south.

Troops encircled the city with checkpoints and held the central square, but citizens reported that some soldiers also were looting food aid, casting doubt on the government’s ability to re-establish stability after nearly a week of brutal attacks.

The leader of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek community said the death toll among Uzbeks exceeded 300. The official toll on both sides is 189, although officials have acknowledged it is likely far higher. More than 100,000 Uzbeks have fled to Uzbekistan, with tens of thousands more camped on the Kyrgyz side of the border.

The interim Kyrgyz government has alleged that attackers hired by deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev set off the bloodshed by shooting at both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, who have a history of ethnic tensions. The United Nations bolstered the claims by declaring that the fighting was “targeted and well-planned,” and appeared to have begun with five simultaneous attacks in Osh by men wearing ski masks.

Uzbek leader Jalalidin Salahuddinov told The Associated Press on Wednesday that 300 deaths had been reported by members of his community who buried friends and relatives. Some were buried on the day they were killed in keeping with Muslim tradition. Salahuddinov said the number includes some Uzbeks already counted in the official toll.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said security in Osh remained fragile with violence persisting in pockets on the city’s edges. It said the Red Cross and rights organizations had trouble reaching some Uzbek neighborhoods, and voiced concern that humanitarian assistance was not reaching all of the population.

The West has urged Kyrgyzstan to forge ahead with a June 27 referendum on the constitution and parliamentary elections in October despite the violence.

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