Uzbeks in Osh - Kyrgyzstan's second largest city - alleged on Thursday that on one street alone, ethnic Kyrgyz men sexually assaulted and beat more than ten Uzbek women and girls, including some pregnant women and children as young as 12 during the ethnic violence that erupted last week.
Local resident Matlyuba Akramova showed journalists a 16-year-old relative who appeared to be in a state of shock, and said she had been hiding in the attic as Kyrgyz mobs beat her father in their home in the Cheryomushki neighbourhood. Akramova said that when the girl came downstairs to bandage her father's head, another group of attackers sexually assaulted her in front of him.
"What they did to her - even animals wouldn't do that," Akramova said.
Akramova said that all of the attackers were local men of Kyrgyz background, some of them worked in the area as electricians, one was a computer engineer.
Odinama Matkadyrovna, an Uzbek doctor in Osh, said there were probably more rapes than have been reported, but many victims were reluctant to speak out about their experience.
"Our mentality is such that they conceal (cases of rape)," she said. Human Rights Watch researcher Anna Neistat, who is investigating the violence in Osh, said it was difficult to say how many rapes occurred.
"I just documented at least one case where I spoke to the woman who was raped," she said.
"There are several other women in the very same location, so by now I can say with confidence that cases like this did happen. The question is the scale."
Members of the Kyrgyz community have denied accusations of brutality and have accused Uzbeks of raping Kyrgyz women. Eyewitnesses and experts say many Kyrgyz were killed in the unrest, but most victims appear to have been Uzbeks, traditional farmers and traders who speak a different Turkic language and have been more prosperous than the Kyrgyz, who come from a nomadic tradition.
Violence erupted last week between the majority Kyrgyz population and minority ethnic Uzbeks.
Kyrgyzstan's interim government has accused the country's deposed president of igniting long-standing ethnic tensions by sending gunmen in ski masks to shoot members of both groups.
The government, which overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, accuses the leader of deep corruption and says that he and his supporters were attempting to shake official control of the south and reassert their control of the Afghan heroin trade in the area.
Some 400-thousand people have been displaced by the violence the United Nations announced on Thursday. Many of the thousands of refugees to have crossed into Uzbekistan said they are afraid to return to Osh, a city with a population of more than 1.1 (m) million together with nearby areas.
Many would have nowhere to live if they returned, they said.