Police in Kazakhstan have launched a murder investigation after the discovery of 11 bodies in a mountain gorge outside the country's largest city.

The bodies, with multiple stab wounds, were discovered on Tuesday in the mountainous Ile-Alatau national park, near Almaty.

According to the interior ministry among the dead were a well-known local park ranger, his partner and several employees.

The ministry said police had not yet established a motive for the crime.

Unexplained deaths

In the latest case, six bodies were found in or near the ranger's house, the ministry said.

A further five were found in the burned-out home of another park ranger 25km away.

The statement said forest rangers had separately discovered the body of a man from a European country, and there were at least two women among the six victims they had already identified.

Guns, jewellery and a safe containing the equivalent of nearly $16,000 inside the home of the 76-year-old ranger had not been touched, it said.

No arrests have yet been made. The attacks appear to have happened over the weekend.

Ile-Alatau national park lies on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan mountains on the border with Kyrgyzstan. It was created in the 1990s in an attempt to promote tourism in Kazakhstan.

The unexplained deaths follow the killing in late May of 14 border guards and a herder at a remote post near Kazakhstan's frontier with China.

A soldier who was serving there was later found and arrested. He is currently on trial where he has withdrawn an initial confession, saying he had been forced to sign an admission of guilt.

Source: Agencies