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Murder mystery in Kazakhstan

Police in the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan are searching for suspects Tuesday in connection to 11 people found dead in a national park. It is thought the people were murdered.

Seven bodies with stab wounds, including two burned bodies, were found on Monday in the Ile-Alatau national park in southern Almaty Province, near the border with China and Kyrgyzstan.

Searchers discovered two of the bodies in the home of a ranger living in the heavily-wooded Karasaisky region, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) southeast of the Kazakh capital Astana.

Several victims suffered knife wounds, Kazah Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov was quoted as telling Russian news agency Interfax.

Adding to the mystery, guns, jewellery and a safe containing the equivalent of nearly $16,000 (12,900 euros) inside the home of the ranger had not been touched.

Five of the bodies found so far have reportedly been identified. Among the dead, a well-known local park ranger, his wife and several employees, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website.

Four more bodies was discovered on Tuesday, bringing the total to 11.

According to Kasymov, it was possible the killer or killers knew the victims.

Individuals police initially considered suspects were later found to be victims. The whereabouts of one of the suspects - the son of a forest ranger - was unknown, police spokesman Arman Orazaliyev said.

Kazakh media reported some of the victims either knew rangers who were working in the park or were rangers themselves.

This isn't the first time violence has haunted the region. In late May, a forest ranger and 14 border guards were killed and burned at a remote outpost along the Chinese border in the same region. One guard deployed at the outpost was later found alive and charged with killing the 15 men.

Located in central Asia, Kazakhstan achieved independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is the second-largest of the former Soviet Republics after Russia, and one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Around 17 million people live in an area of more than 2.7 million square kilometres.

bm/jlw (AFP, dpa)