The interim government in Kyrgyzstan has extended a state of emergency in the violence-hit southern regions even as refugees continued to return to their homes.

The state of emergency was due to expire on Sunday, but the government has extended it until June 25 to make sure renewed unrest does not interfere with their plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution on June 27.

Thousands of Uzbek women and children who had fled the fighting to neighbouring Uzbekistan crossed the border back to Kyrgyzstan on Sunday as calm returned to the cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, as well as surrounding villages, reported the Kyrgyz AKIpress news agency. Other sources said, however, that many refugees still refused to go back.

An estimated 2,000 people died in four days of anti-Uzbek riots last week. The United Nations said on Saturday one million people had been displaced in southern Kyrgyzstan: about 300,000 refugees took shelter in neighbouring Uzbekistan and more than 700,000 dispersed in the Ferghana Valley and crowded into squalid camps on the Kyrgyz side of the border with Uzbekistan, as their homes were plundered and torched by armed Kyrgyz mobs.

Troops started removing barricades in Osh on roads leading to Uzbek neighbourhoods as Uzbek residents who had set them up refused to dismantle them for fear of more violence. Uzbeks have accused Kyrgyz forces of taking part in attacks. Authorities promised to investigate the allegations.

Humanitarian aide has been pouring into Kyrgyzstan from all over the world. However, reports from the south said only a small portion of the aid was reaching Uzbek residents and refugees, while the bulk was distributed among Kyrgyz and diverted to the black market.

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