- Title: KYRGYZSTAN: U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan gets new commander
- Date: 16th June 2010
- Summary: MANAS US AIR BASE, KYRGYZSTAN (JUNE 15, 2010) (REUTERS) BASE ENTRANCE GATE SIGN READING "ATTENTION! MILITARY OBJECT OF USA. RESTRICTED AREA" SERVICEMEN BEHIND BASE FENCE US SERVICEMEN IN ROW ATTENDING CEREMONY TO MARK CHANGE OF BASE CHIEF AS PART OF REGULAR ROTATION US SERVICEMEN ATTENDING CEREMONY THREE OFFICERS WALKING OUT OF BASE HQ WIDE OF PODIUM WITH TRIBUNE, SENIOR OFFICERS STEPPING ON PODIUM CLOSE OF UNIFORM STRIPE READING "...FORCE", STAR ON SLEEVE
- Embargoed: 1st July 2010 13:00
- Location: Turkey
- Country: Turkey
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVABSGA5QKUYW8LHB1HJFE1YXZL5
- Story Text: The U.S. air base Manas in Kyrgyzstan has not been affected by the ethnic violence in the south of the country, officers at the base said on Tuesday (June 15).
Clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad began on Thursday (June 10) last week and escalated over the weekend. Witnesses said gangs with automatic rifles, iron bars and machetes set fire to houses and shot fleeing residents.
At least 124 people have been killed in the violence which has fuelled concern in Russia and the United States, both of whom operate military air bases in the strategic but volatile nation west of China.
On Tuesday (June 15) base commanders invited journalists for an open ceremony to mark the regular change of command at the base.
"Like any operation, if there is unrest or violence we are concerned, however here at the transit centre we will continue to do our mission, that will be air refuelling, airlifting supplies, moving soldiers, sailors and admin in and out of Afghanistan as well as continuing to build and foster our relationships with our Kyrgyz neighbours and friends here in the transit area, Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan," said the new commander Colonel Dwight Sones.
Washington uses its air base at Manas in the north of the ex-Soviet state, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply forces in Afghanistan. Russia also has an air base.
Meanwhile the number of refugees fleeing the deadliest ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in 20 years may soon rise to 100,000, a U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
The White House said U.S. officials had been in close contact with their Russian counterparts about the situation.
Analysts say that if southern Kyrgyzstan, part of the Fergana Valley shared with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, descends into chaos it could foster militant Islamism financed by drugs.
Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which assumed power after president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown in April, has accused supporters of the ousted leader of stoking ethnic conflict, an allegation Bakiyev denied in a statement on Sunday (June 13).
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