URUMQI, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Seventeen Kyrgyz truck drivers who sought refuge in China after deadly ethnic clashes broke out in their homeland have returned to their home country, local authorities said Wednesday.
The 17 were among the 35 Kyrgyz drivers of Uzbec ethnicity who stayed in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for 20 days after clashes broke out between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in mid-June in the southern Kyrgyzstan regions of Osh and Jalalabad.
In the clashes, nearly 300 were killed while thousands were forced to flee their homes.
The truck drivers were crossing the Ilkshtan port when the clashes broke out. Fearing being caught in the violence, they chose to stay in China, Xinjiang's border police said.
The 17 drivers decided to leave China Tuesday. They were escorted by Chinese police to the China-Kyrgyzstan border and handed over to the Kyrgyz police.
Chinese police said they will continue to take care of the remaining 18 drivers out of humanitarian concern.
Since June 15, China has chartered flights to transport 80 tonnes of relief supplies worth 11 million yuan (1.6 million U.S. dollars) to Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan, which were flooded with refugees after the clashes.