Kazakhstan: 160 people killed and thousands detained in anti-government riots

9 January 2022, 15:25

Officials in Kazakhstan say more than 160 people have been killed.
Officials in Kazakhstan say more than 160 people have been killed. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

More than 160 people have been killed in violent anti-government protests in Kazakhstan after demonstrators seized government buildings and set some on fire.

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Almost 6,000 people have been detained in Kazakhstan in the last week after protests developed into violence and prompted a Russian-led military alliance to send troops to the country, the office of Kazakhstan's president said on Sunday.

In the nation's largest city, Almaty, 103 deaths have been recorded, while authorities said 16 police or national guard members have died.

Read more: Kazakhstan: Dozens of protesters killed in riots as Russia deploys paratroopers

Riots broke out in the city after demonstrators, furious at authoritarian government in the central Asian state and escalating energy prices, reportedly broke into the country's presidential residence.

Fires were started and security forces hit back, with a police spokeswoman saying "dozens of attackers were liquidated".

On Sunday, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's office said the situation in the country has stabilised and authorities have regained control of administrative buildings which had been occupied by protesters.

Mr Tokayev said on Friday that he had authorised police and the military to shoot to kill to restore order.

Russian TV station Mir-24 said sporadic gunfire was heard in Almaty, the country's largest city, on Sunday, but it was unclear whether they were warning shots by law enforcement.

Almaty's airport, which had been taken by protesters last week, remained closed but was expected to resume operating on Monday.

The escalating chaos, which began in western Kazakhstan on January 2, was triggered by liquified petroleum gas prices nearly doubling. It is used as vehicle fuel.

Protests spread throughout the country, apparently reflecting discontent extending beyond the fuel prices.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the aftermath of turmoil.
Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the aftermath of turmoil. Picture: Getty

The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Any figures aspiring to oppose the government have either been repressed, sidelined, or co-opted, and financial hardship is widespread despite the country's enormous reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and minerals.

Mr Tokayev contends that the demonstrations were ignited by "terrorists" with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organisation.

The statement from his office on Sunday said the detentions included "a sizeable number of foreign nationals", but gave no details.

It was unclear how many of those detained remained in custody on Sunday.

The former head of Kazakhstan's counter-intelligence and anti-terror agency has been arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The arrest of Karim Masimov, which was announced on Saturday, came just days after he was removed as head of the National Security Committee by Mr Tokayev.

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