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BISHKEK — The situation in Bishkek was stable late on May 18, police said, after mob violence against foreign students injured at least 29 people, including several foreigners, and triggered diplomatic tensions with Pakistan and India.

RFE/RL correspondents reported that the situation near the dormitory where foreigners live at Kyrgyz International University in the eastern part of Bishkek was calm on the evening of May 18 and said security measures had been strengthened.

Kyrgyz authorities said the Pakistani Embassy and a dormitory where foreigners live were put under strict security.

The Health Ministry said on May 18 that 15 of the 29 people injured in a brawl the night before were taken to the Bishkek City Emergency Hospital and the National Hospital and the rest were treated on the spot.

Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev said three foreign students were hospitalized, one in the maxillofacial department and two in the trauma department.

The nationality of the injured students was not released, but students confirmed to RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that Pakistani students were involved in the incident and some of them were injured.

Indian media reported that Indian and Pakistani students were injured, and Indian Foreign Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar said he was monitoring the situation.

About 140 students and 40 other Pakistanis flew out of Bishkek late on May 18. The students were received by Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi at Lahore International Airport, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal. A second flight is arriving on May 19, the CAA officials said.

Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, who is also foreign minister, and Minister for Kashmir Affairs Amir Muqam, will leave for Bishkek from Islamabad on May 19 at the direction of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to accelerate the evacuation of the students, officials told RFE/RL.

The Kyrgyz government said earlier that four foreign nationals born between 1993 and 2003 had been arrested following the violence. It said they were placed in a temporary detention facility as part of a criminal case for hooliganism without stating their nationalities or the circumstances of their arrests.

Those found guilty will be punished, the Kyrgyz government said in a statement, rejecting what it said were “insinuations aimed at inciting intolerance toward foreign students.” But it appeared to lay the blame for the violence on illegal migrants, saying authorities had been taking “decisive measures to suppress illegal migration and expel undesirable persons from Kyrgyzstan.”

The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry said in a statement on May 18 that the violence was triggered by the appearance on social media of a video purportedly showing a group of “persons of Asian appearance” harassing foreign students on the night of May 13 and then pursuing them to their dormitory, where at least one foreign student was assaulted by several men and dragged on the floor.

Samiulla Qureshi, a fifth-year medical student at the International University of Bishkek, said the fight on May 13 broke out between Egyptian students and local residents.

Later a video of Egyptians beating international students went viral on social media, he said.

The violence that started on the night of May 17 occurred when “local guys gathered and decided to visit the places where international students live,” Qureshi said. They were beaten “regardless of whether they are from Pakistan, India, or [another country], he added.

The ministry, which posted a version of the video on its Telegram channel, said other foreign students, alerted by the intruders’ apparent attempt to enter the female students’ quarters, mobilized and fought off the attackers.

“A fight ensued between them in the hostel yard, during which three of the attackers fled, leaving one behind,” the statement said.

It said four foreign nationals born between 1993 and 2003 were detained and placed in a temporary detention facility as part of a criminal case for hooliganism without stating their nationalities or the circumstances of their arrests.

The ministry said authorities are still looking for two of the alleged attackers who were identified as natives of Kyrgyzstan’s Kemin district: Nursultan Mukaev, born in 2006, and Tilek Shermatov, born in 2005.

The ministry claimed in its statement that the emergence of the video on social media on May 17 “without an explanation of the true circumstances of the incident” triggered a public outcry, and 500-700 people gathered, demanding action by authorities against those responsible for the May 13 incident at the hostel.

The ministry claimed security forces cordoned off the area where people had gathered at the intersection of Kurmanjan-Datka Street and Chui Avenue. “Explanatory work was carried out onsite, and after some time, the crowd dispersed,” the statement said.

However, the statement does not explain how dozens of people were injured on the night of May 17, while the official account was contradicted by video footage appearing to show attackers ransacking a student hostel and beating up people, as well as riotous crowds in different parts of the city.

It also did not clarify why authorities took four days to intervene and identify the alleged suspects.

Muhammad Ihtisham Latif, a Pakistani medical student in Bishkek, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal, “The situation is bad here. The situation started when Egyptian students clashed with locals here. The locals are now protesting and they are beating Indian and Pakistani students…. They chase them in their hostels and houses…hostel [doors] were broken. I am locked up in the university along with other students since yesterday and I am sharing my voice with you.”

Syed Shah Rukh Khan, a medical student in his final year, told Radio Mashaal the past night had been “living hell.”

“Our hostel and many other hostels were attacked. The locals beat whoever came their way, boys or girls, and they were dragged to the ground. Even outside the universities, they went after the Pakistani and Indian students and beat them,” Khan said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed “deep concern” over the situation of Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan, saying in a statement that he directed Pakistan’s ambassador to provide all necessary help and assistance to the students.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar said on X, formerly Twitter, that the reports of mob attacks on students in Kyrgyzstan are extremely concerning.

“We have established contact with the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure protection of Pakistani students. I have instructed our ambassador to Kyrgyzstan to fully facilitate them,” Dar said.

In a separate statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the charge d’affaires of the Kyrgyz Embassy to Islamabad, Melis Moldaliev, was summoned to the ministry, where he “was conveyed the deep concerns of the government of Pakistan about the reports of last night’s incidents against Pakistani students studying in the Kyrgyz Republic.”

Moldaliev was told that Islamabad expects the Kyrgyz government to take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani students and citizens in Kyrgyzstan.

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee on National Security (UKMK), Kamchybek Tashiev, appeared to try and lay the blame for the violence on illegal migrants, saying protesters were demonstrating against migration.

Tashiev claimed Kyrgyzstan has been grappling with an influx of illegal migrants coming to the country, mostly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, many of whom “break the law.”

“We identify at least 20-30 or 50 illegal migrants per day and try to expel them from the country. Based on official statistics, most of the foreigners who break the law are citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Of these, we returned about 1,500 people from Pakistan and about 1,000 people from Bangladesh to their countries.”

The incident comes amid a drive by Kyrgyz authorities to expel foreign workers. On May 16, the UKMK announced the arrest of 28 alleged illegal Pakistani workers from a sweatshop. On May 15, Bishkek police shut down delivery services conducted by more than 400 foreign students on motorcycles and scooters, citing traffic safety concerns.

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