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Nearly 6,000 held in Kazakhstan over riots

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN (AFP) – Nearly 6,000 people, including a number of foreigners, have been arrested in Kazakhstan over the riots that have shaken Central Asia’s largest country, the presidency said yesterday. The energy-rich nation of 19 million people has been rocked by a week of upheaval with dozens killed.

In total, 5,800 people have been detained for questioning as part of 125 separate investigations into the unrest, the presidency said in a statement.

The figures included “a substantial number of foreign nationals”, it said without elaborating.

“The situation has stabilised in all regions of the country,” even if security forces were continuing “cleanup” operations, the statement added after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a crisis meeting.

Fuel price rises sparked the unrest that broke out a week ago in western provincial areas but quickly spread to large cities, including the economic hub Almaty, where riots erupted and police opened fire using live rounds.

People walking past cars, burnt after clashes, on a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan. PHOTO: AP

The Interior Ministry, quoted yesterday by local media, put property damage at around
EUR175 million.

More than 100 businesses and banks were attacked and looted and more than 400 vehicles destroyed, the ministry reportedly said.

A relative calm appeared to have returned to Almaty, with police sometimes firing shots into the air to stop people approaching the city’s central square, an AFP correspondent said.

Supermarkets were re-opening yesterday, media reported, amid fears of food shortages.

Kazakhstan said on Saturday its former security chief had been arrested for suspected treason, as Russia hit back at United States (US) criticism of its deployment of troops to the crisis-hit country.

News of the detention of Karim Masimov, a former prime minister and longtime ally of Kazakhstan’s ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, came amid speculation of a power struggle in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation.

The domestic intelligence agency, the National Security Committee (KNB), announced that Masimov had been detained on Thursday on suspicion of high treason.

President Tokayev sacked Masimov after protests turned into widespread violence, with government buildings in Almaty stormed and set ablaze.

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