Riots spread in Kazakhstan

Nazarbayev declared a 20-day state of emergency in the oil city of Zhanaozen as riots in Kazakhstan's western Mangistau region spread late on Saturday.

Riots spread in Kazakhstan

Riots in Kazakhstan's western Mangistau region, the deadliest in the Central Asian state's recent history, spread late on Saturday when one person died and 11 people were injured as protesters clashed with police near the village of Shetpe.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared a 20-day state of emergency on Saturday in the oil city of Zhanaozen, located in the same region, after at least 11 people were killed there in an outbreak of violence on Dec. 16-17.

Public protests are rare in Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest economy and biggest oil producer, where 71-year-old Nazarbayev has overseen more than $120 billion in foreign investment during more than two decades in power.

Govt sees "holigans"

A large group of people supporting Zhanaozen protesters stopped a train carrying more than 300 passengers on Saturday, the Kazakh prosecutor-general's office said in a statement on Sunday.

Most of them later left but some 50 "hooligans" set the diesel locomotive on fire and moved into the nearby village of Shetpe, setting the New Year tree on fire, smashing shop windows and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, the statement said.

"Taking into account the fact that the hooligans presented a real threat to the life and health of peaceful citizens and policemen, the latter were forced to use weapons," it said.

One of the twelve people brought to a local hospital with gunshot wounds died later, the statement said.

"Striking workers"

The unprecedented riots began on Friday when sacked oil workers and sympathetic citizens stormed a stage erected for an Independence Day party and smashed sound equipment in central Zhanaozen, a city of some 90,000 people.

They later set fire to the city hall, the headquarters of a local oil company, a hotel and dozens of other buildings, including trade centres and houses, burned cars and buses and plundered ATMs.

State-controlled, London-listed oil firm KazMunaiGas EP, which sacked 989 workers in Zhanaozen after staff went on strike for better pay and conditions in May, said 2,500 people were on strike at the height of the dispute. Representatives of the striking workers have put the maximum number at almost 16,000.

The bloody clashes not only soured pompous nationwide celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, the also unnerved a government that has always put stability and economic growth before democratic freedoms.

Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has overseen rapid market reforms but tolerates little dissent in his hydrocarbon-rich nation of 16.6 million, declared a state of emergency and a curfew in Zhanaozen until Jan. 5.

Public protests and strikes are banned, while movement around Zhanaozen and access to and from the city is restricted.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Aralık 2011, 11:22
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