Shootout in Kazakhstan: Gunmen Kill Five, Two Suspects Arrested
While President Nazarbayev called the shootout a “a terrorist act,” security forces are yet to verify it.
Three police officers and two civilians were killed on Monday, following armed attacks on a police station and a security service office in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty, the Interior Ministry said.
The attack came following a recently launched anti-terrorist operation, said the authorities. President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the shootout “a terrorist act”.
Parts of the city were in lockdown following the incident. Security forces have arrested two men in connection with the case.
“According to preliminary information, one of the detained person is a 27-year-old man with previous convictions,” the Ministry said, adding that he is “suspected of murdering a woman over the weekend.”
KNB security chief Vladimir Zhumakanov said the suspect may have “connected” with followers of the ultra-conservative Salafi strain of Islam while in jail on theft and weapons charges.
He is accused of killing a local resident during a carjacking and attacking the police station in broad daylight, then shooting dead a police officer and seizing his gun. A civilian also died during the shooting at the police station.
The suspect then shot dead two officers as they gave chase, before he was arrested.
They did not reveal any information about the second detained suspect.
Two witnesses told Reuters they heard shots in several areas in the centre of Almaty, a predominantly Muslim city.
Police cordoned off many central streets, including the one near a local office of the KNB security police, where shots were also heard.
“I heard one shot, most probably fired from a pistol,” said a man who happened to be standing nearby.
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Kazakhstan, an oil rich-rich nation of 18 million, is far more prosperous than its post-Soviet neighbours in Central Asia. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 76, has ruled it with a firm hand since 1989, making stability his motto. But the country has recently seen outbreaks of violence, initially triggered by discontent over proposed land reforms.
The KNB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said last month that it had detained several members of a group which planned “terrorist acts using improvised explosive devices”, following a deadly attack in the northwestern town of Aktobe.
In that incident, about two dozen men described by the authorities as sympathisers of Islamic State, attacked gun stores and a national guard facility, killing seven people. Security forces killed 18 attackers, some on the same day and some in the subsequent manhunt.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters.)
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