In near simultaneous attacks, gunmen have killed six people at a national guard base and two stores selling firearms in Kazakhstan’s industrial city of Aktobe, the interior ministry said.
Four of the assailants were killed and seven detained on Sunday by police in a “counterterrorist” operation, ministry spokesman Almas Sadubayev said. Some remained at large, he said.
Sadubayev said police suspected the attackers were “followers of radical, non-traditional religious movements”.
Gunmen killed a clerk and a guard at one firearms store and then wounded three policemen who arrived at the site. At another firearms store, they killed a visitor before police came and killed three attackers.
A third group hijacked a bus and used it to ram the gate at the national guard base, where they killed three servicemen before guards and police killed one attacker.
Sadubayev did not say how many people were involved in the three attacks.
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A resident of Aktobe – who asked to be identified only by his first name, Valery – told Reuters by telephone he had seen armed police from his balcony and heard gunshots.
“They were telling children playing outside to run to their homes,” Valery said, adding he had also seen low-flying helicopters.
Valery received a text message saying a 10pm curfew was being imposed in the city.
Aktobe, 100km from the Russian border, was the site of Kazakhstan’s first suicide bombing in 2011 when a local man detonated an explosive device inside the building of the state security service.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s security service on Monday accused a detained businessman with Russian ties of financing recent anti-government protests as part of a plot to seize power.
Tokhtar Tuleshov, best known as the chief executive of one of the Central Asian nation’s largest breweries, has been imprisoned since January, but authorities had not up to now given details of any charges.
“His plan included destabilising the situation in the country by creating flashpoints, organising protests and mass unrest,” National Security Committee (KNB) spokesman Ruslan Karasev told reporters on Monday.
“We have proof that protests against the so-called land reform that took place in Atyrau, Astana, Almaty, Uralsk, Kyzylorda had been instigated and financed by Tuleshov.”
Thousands of Kazakhs took part in street protests across the country in April and May, which were triggered by a planned land reform, but quickly became an expression of general discontent with the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power since 1989.
Tuleshov’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Karasev said the KNB had detained several suspected accomplices of Tuleshov over the weekend, including two colonels in charge of two separate military bases.
Tuleshov ran the Kazakh office of a Russia-based organisation called the Centre for the Analysis of Terrorist Threats.
Its website, catu.kz, published anti-Western and pro-Russian articles, including one piece alleging that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters were sending reinforcements to Ukrainian nationalists.
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