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Kazakhstan issues red alert after shooting

July 18, 2016

Kazakh officials have issued a red alert after at least four people were killed by gunmen in the country's largest city. Two suspects were captured. Police blame religious radicals for the violence.

Kasachstan Angriff auf Polizei in Almaty
Image: Reuters/P. Mikheyev

The private Interfax news agency, quoting a police source, said "a religious radical and probably a follower of non-traditional Islam," was on the rampage in central Almaty, opening fire sporadically.

The interior ministry confirmed three police officers and a civilian were killed and an unspecified number wounded as police cordoned off streets near the local branch of the state security services (KNB).

Authorities said the main attacker was a 27-year-old man was immediately arrested; his alleged accomplice - who police did not describe - was captured hours later.

Kazakhstan, an oil rich-rich nation of 17 million, is far more prosperous than its post-Soviet neighbors in Central Asia. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 76, has ruled it with an iron hand since 1989, making stability his motto.

But the country has recently seen outbreaks of violence, initially triggered by discontent over proposed land reforms.

Kasachstan Angriff auf Polizei in Almaty
Investigators and police officers work at the scene of a shooting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on July 18, 2016Image: Reuters/S. Zhumatov

A month ago at least 20 people were killed in the city of Aktobe when groups of gunmen attacked a military base and a gun shop. Authorities described the violence as a terrorist attack and blamed it on radical Islamists sympathetic to the self-styled "Islamic State."

Kazakhstan's National Security Committee said in a statement Monday it had raised the terror threat level to red after the attack on the police station. It would not elaborate. Local media said at least seven police officers have been taken to hospital in critical condition.

jar/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)