More than 150 people have died and nearly 6,000 have been arrested in Kazakhstan following violent riots in Kazakhstan this week, media reported on Sunday citing the country’s health ministry.
At least 164 people were killed in the riots, including 103 in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, which has seen some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and security forces.
The new figures – which have not been independently verified – mark a drastic increase in the death toll.
The energy-rich country of about 19 million people has been rocked by a week of riots killing dozens.
Rising fuel prices sparked unrest a week ago in the western provinces, but they quickly reached major cities, including the economic center of Almaty, where riots broke out and police took opened fire with live ammunition.
The Home Office, as quoted by local media on Sunday, said early estimates put the property damage at around 175 million euros ($ 198 million).
More than 100 businesses and banks have been attacked and looted and more than 400 vehicles destroyed, the ministry said.
Order “reinstated”, Almaty airport still closed
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s office said on Sunday that order had been restored in the country and that authorities had regained control of administrative buildings that were occupied by protesters, some of which were set on fire.
Russian television station Mir-24 said sporadic gunshots were heard in Almaty on Sunday, but it was not clear whether they were warning shots from law enforcement. Tokayev said on Friday he had allowed police and military to shoot to kill to restore order.
Almaty airport, which was taken over by protesters last week, remained closed but is expected to resume operations on Monday.
The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. All the personalities aspiring to oppose the government have been either suppressed, dismissed or co-opted and financial difficulties are widespread despite the enormous reserves of oil and gas. natural, uranium and minerals.
Tokayev maintains that the protests were started by “terrorists” with foreign support, although the protests did not show any obvious leader or organization. His office statement on Sunday said the detentions included “a significant number of foreign nationals” but gave no details.
It is not known how many people detained remained in detention on Sunday.
“Old man out!” “
The former head of the Kazakhstan counter-intelligence and counterterrorism agency has been arrested for attempting to overthrow the government. Karim Masimov’s arrest, which was announced on Saturday, came just days after he was removed from his post as head of the National Security Committee by Tokayev.
No details were given of what Masimov allegedly did that would constitute an attempt to overthrow the government. The National Security Committee, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for counterintelligence, border guard service and counterterrorism activities.
At Tokayev’s request, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSC), a Russian-led military alliance of six former Soviet states, authorized the dispatch of around 2,500 mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan as as peacekeepers.
Part of the force guards government facilities in the capital, Nur-Sultan, which “freed part of the Kazakh security forces and redeployed them to Almaty to participate in the anti-terrorism operation”, according to a statement from Tokayev’s office.
As a sign that the protests were more entrenched than the mere rise in fuel prices, many protesters shouted “Old Man Out” in reference to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had been president since independence from Kazakhstan until his resignation in 2019 and anointed Tokayev as his successor. .
Nazarbayev retained substantial power as the head of the National Security Council. But Tokayev replaced him as head of the council during the unrest this week. Amid questions about whether Tokayev succeeded in sidelining his ruling predecessor, Nazarbayev’s adviser Aido Ukibay said on Sunday that it was done on Nazarbayev’s initiative, according to the news agency. Kazakh press KazTag.
.(FRANCE 24 with AFP, PA and REUTERS)