Kazakhstan Detains Almost 10,000 Over Deadly Unrest


Security forces in Kazakhstan have detained 9,900 people regarding last week’s unrest, the interior ministry of the central Asian nation said on Tuesday.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who called the violence a coup attempt, nominated Alikhan Smailov for prime minister on Tuesday, and the lower house of parliament swiftly voted him in during a session broadcast live on state television.

Smailov, 49, served as first deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet which Tokayev dismissed last week amid violent unrest.

The oil-rich former Soviet republic says government buildings were attacked in several major cities after initially peaceful protests against hikes in the price of car fuel turned violent.

Tokayev has said Islamist militants from regional nations and Afghanistan, as well as the Middle East, were among the attackers.

He dismissed his cabinet amid the unrest, along with a number of security officials and detained on suspicion of treason the most senior among them, Karim Masimov, a former head of the national security committee.

Protesters attend a rally triggered by energy price hikes in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Jan. 4, 2022. (Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images)

The demonstrations began on Jan. 2 over a near-doubling of prices for vehicle fuel and quickly spread across the country, with political slogans reflecting wider discontent with Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government.

In a concession, the government announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases. As the unrest mounted, the ministerial cabinet resigned and the president replaced Nursultan Nazarbayev, former longtime leader of Kazakhstan, as head of the National Security Council.

One of the main slogans of the past week’s protests, “Old man out,” was a reference to Nazarbayev, who served as president from Kazakhstan’s independence until he resigned in 2019 and anointed Tokayev as his successor. Nazarbayev had retained substantial power at the helm of the National Security Council.

Despite the concessions, the protests turned extremely violent for several days. In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the protesters set the city hall on fire and stormed and briefly seized the airport. For several days, sporadic gunfire was reported in the city streets.

Kazakhstan Unrest Photo
A burned-out administrative building is seen behind a fence in central Almaty, Kazakhstan on Jan. 6, 2022. (Alexandr Bogdanov/AFP via Getty Images)

The authorities declared a state of emergency over the unrest, and Tokayev requested help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led military alliance of six former Soviet states. The group has authorized sending about 2,500 mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan as peacekeepers.

Tokayev has said the demonstrations were instigated by “terrorists” with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organization. On Friday, he said he ordered police and the military to shoot to kill “terrorists” involved in the violence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reuters

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