SURATASH, Kyrgyzstan – Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks massed on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan refused to return home Sunday, saying they feared for their lives after violent pogroms and didn’t trust Kyrgyz troops to protect them.

Reporters saw some 50 Kyrgyz troops, many in armored transport carriers, enter the border village of Suratash and try to reassure refugee families it was safe to return home.

Yet the soldiers’ presence terrified the Uzbeks who fled after attacks and arson by ethnic Kyrgyz, because they blame Kyrgyz troops for abetting the violence that left hundreds of Uzbeks dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

“Of course we were afraid. Afraid because they were the ones — the soldiers who fired shots,” said Maplyuba Akhmedova, an Uzbek who fled her home.

In Sakaldy, another village in Kyrgyzstan, ethnic Uzbek men spent the night in a meadow near a barbed-wire fence that marks the border with Uzbekistan.

Entire Uzbek neighborhoods in southern Kyrgyzstan were reduced to scorched ruins by rampaging mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz, who forced nearly half of the region’s roughly 800,000 Uzbeks to flee. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva says as many as 2,000 people may have died in the clashes.

Her government said the attacks were ignited by supporters of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was toppled in April amid accusations of corruption. The U.N. has said the unrest appeared orchestrated but has stopped short of assigning blame.

The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people have fled their homes in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation, and about 100,000 of them have entered Uzbekistan.