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What Role Did Crime Kingpins Play in Southern Kyrgyzstan’s Violence?

A fresh plume of smoke rises over the Uzbek neighborhood of Arevan in Osh during the several days of ethnic clashes. (Photo: Dalton Bennett)

Criminal networks have long maintained a strong presence in southern Kyrgyzstan, given the region’s status as a trade hub. In the weeks since inter-ethnic violence in the region left hundreds dead, observers have been wondering about what role, if any, criminal groups played in stoking the violence?

Some experts believe that a breakdown of state authority in the region in the months leading up to the mid-June violence helped touch off an underworld turf war, which, in turn, played a key role in inciting broader inter-ethnic violence. Others say gangs simply reacted to the violence, using the inter-ethnic clashes as cover for their own actions, which were aimed at altering the local criminal balance-of-power.

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What Role Did Crime Kingpins Play in Southern Kyrgyzstan’s Violence?

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