Factbox: Kyrgyzstan’s second city of Osh

(BestGrowthStock) – Kyrgyzstan appealed for Russian help to stop ethnic fighting that killed at least 63 and left parts of its second-largest city in flames, the worst violence since the president was toppled in April.

The interim government in Kyrgyzstan, which hosts U.S. and Russian military bases, said it was powerless to stop armed gangs from burning down the homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks in parts of Osh. Gun battles raged throughout the night.

* TROUBLE IN OSH

— Osh, capital of the largely agrarian, cotton-growing south, was the scene of most of Kyrgyzstan’s violence in 1990 between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

— Since then the city has been synonymous with a post-Soviet rise of radical Islamism.

* CITY DETAILS

— The city is 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) above sea level on the Akbura River where it emerges from the Alay foothills.

— It was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century and in the 15th century, before sea routes were discovered, it was an important post on the trade routes to China and India. Its position at a crossroads along the ancient trading routes that became known as the Silk Road made it a major settlement.

— It has silk and cotton textile production and food processing, and is the starting point of the Osh-Khorugh road, the main Pamirs highway.

* THE MOUNTAIN

— Mount Sulaiman Too, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the western part of the city and has long been a place of Muslim pilgrimage. The mountain dominates the Fergana Valley and forms the backdrop to the city.

— At the top is a mosque built in 1497 and named after Zaheeruddin Babur, who had been recently crowned the King of the Fergana Valley and later became the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India.

— Sulaiman was a beacon for travellers and revered as a sacred mountain. The mosque at the top became a focus for devout Muslims in the region, partly because the Prophet Mohammad is said to have once prayed on the rock.

Sources: Reuters/www.britannica.com/UNESCO

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(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Factbox: Kyrgyzstan’s second city of Osh