Kazakhstan detains 7,939 people over riots

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of people protest against the government’s main square following the authorities’ decision to lift a price cap on liquefied petroleum gas in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022.REUTERS/Maria Goldeva

Nur-Sultan (Reuters) – Kazakh security forces had detained a total of 7,939 people as of Monday in last week’s unrest, the worst violence in the Central Asian country’s post-Soviet history, the interior ministry said.

Government buildings were briefly occupied or burned in several cities last week as initially peaceful protests against rising fuel prices turned violent.

Authorities blamed the violence on “extremists” and “terrorists”, some of whom they said were foreigners.

The former head of the National Security Council, Karim Massimov, was detained last week on suspicion of treason, days after President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev fired him.

Tokayev also disbanded his cabinet, issued a shooting order to end the unrest and declared a state of emergency in the country with 19 million oil reserves. He also asked the Russian-led military bloc to send in troops, which the government said had been deployed to defend strategic objectives.

Citing government social media posts, Russian and state media reported that 164 people were killed in the clashes. But health and police authorities did not confirm the figure, and the social media post was subsequently deleted.

“I think there is some kind of conspiracy involving domestic and certain foreign sabotage,” Secretary of State Yelan Carlin told state television on Monday, without naming any suspects.

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