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37 killed, 80 injured in Soviet ethnic unrest

MOSCOW - A crowd stormed Communist Party headquarters in the Tadzhikistan capital of Dushanbe on Tuesday in ethnic rioting that has left at least 37 people dead and 80 injured, news reports said. Soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers were reportedly in control of the central Asian city 1,600 miles from Moscow, but violence was spreading to the suburbs, said Anatoly Larenok, a correspondent for the national newspaper Vozdushny Transport.

The violence broke out Monday after rumors spread that thousands of Armenian refugees - already fleeing ethnic clashes with Azerbaijanis in the Caucasus - were being given preference for scarce new housing.

There is a chronic housing shortage in Dushanbe.

A large crowd gathered in front of Communist Party headquarters.

When officials failed to persuade them to disperse, they attacked the building and set it on fire, state television reported.

Television showed footage of clashes between rioters and police, smashed vehicles and shattered storefronts.

Moscow Radio said, "According to preliminary estimates, 37 people were killed and 80 wounded since the beginning. Our forces are not enough. The emergency situation is not working.

"The situation in the town is out of control. Skirmishes and fights were and are going on in more than 200 localities in the town," the radio said.

- Information from AP and Reuters was used in this report.