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Kazakh oil region riots leave 15 dead

Last Updated: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 09:43

Astana: Fifteen people have died in
clashes in Kazakhstan`s oil-rich Mangistau region, prosecutors
said Monday, in a blow to a nation that prides itself on years
of energy-fuelled stability.

One person was killed and 11 wounded in fresh violence
yesterday when protesters blocking a passenger train clashed
with police in the village of Shetpe, General Prosecutor
Nurdaulet Suindikov said in a statement.

Those riots followed violence in the city of
Zhanaozen, in the same western region, on Friday when police
and laid-off oil workers clashed during the country`s
independence day celebrations.

Prosecutors said Sunday 14 people died in Zhanaozen,
updating the previous death toll of 13.

The unprecedented riots forced Kazakh leader Nursultan
Nazarbayev to declare a 20-day state of emergency in Zhanaozen
and deal a blow to a governmnet which prides itslef on
attracting foreign investors.

Earlier this year Kazakhstan government said it hired
former British prime minister Tony Blair to help modernise the
ex-Soviet state.

Authorities said Sunday they had the situation in both
towns under control.

"The situation in Zhanaozen is gradually becoming
normal," Suindikov said. "The situation in the village of
Shetpe has stabilised."

On Saturday, a group in Shetpe, about 100 kilometres
(60 miles) from the regional center Aktau, stopped a train
with more than 360 passengers in a show of support for the
protesters in Zhanaozen, prosecutors said.

Some 50 people ignored police calls to disperse, set
the train on fire and proceeded to vandalise the village. "Police were forced to open fire," killing one person, a prosecutors` statement said.

On Friday, clashes with police broke out in Zhanaozen
when people sporting oil workers` uniforms toppled a Christmas
tree and sound equipment set up on the city`s main square for
Independence Day festivities.

Workers in Zhanaozen and other cities in the Mangistau
region on the Caspian Sea have been on strike for months for
higher wages.

Officials led by Nazarbayev dismissed the rioters as
"hooligans," alleging they had been paid to destabilise the
region and attack peaceful residents.

Kyrgyzstan-based opposition channel K-Plus claimed
Sunday that the violence was sparked when police drove a bus
into a crowd of protesting oil workers in Zhanaozen to
disperse their sit-in. It claimed about 70 people were killed
and 500 wounded.


First Published: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 09:43

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