Kazakhstan holds nearly 1,700 more after violent unrest

MOSCOW (AP) – Kazakh authorities said on Wednesday they detained an additional 1,678 people in the past 24 hours for their alleged involvement in the violent unrest that rocked the former Soviet nation last week, the worst since independence from Kazakhstan three decades ago.

The additional detentions, reported by authorities in Almaty, the country’s largest city that has been hardest hit by the unrest, brought the total number of arrests to around 12,000. More than 300 criminal investigations into mass unrest and attacks against law enforcement officials have been opened.

Protests against soaring fuel prices erupted in the oil and gas-rich Central Asian nation of 19 million on January 2 and quickly spread across the country, with political slogans reflecting discontent wider with regard to the authoritarian government of the country.

As unrest escalated, authorities attempted to appease protesters and announced a 180-day cap on fuel prices. The ministerial cabinet resigned and Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s long-time former ruler, was ousted from his influential post as head of the National Security Council.

Yet over the next few days the protests turned violent, killing dozens of civilians and law enforcement officials.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s former capital and largest city, protesters torched government buildings and briefly seized the airport. The unrest was largely assuaged over the past weekend.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed the unrest on foreign-backed “terrorists” and asked for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, a Russian-led military alliance made up of six states. from the former Soviet Union. The bloc authorized the dispatch of 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan.

Tokayev said on Tuesday that the CSTO will start withdrawing its troops this week, as they have completed their mission and the situation in the country has stabilized.

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