Kazakh oil region riots spread, death toll up

Last Updated: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 15:30

Astana: Violence in Kazakhstan`s oil-rich
Mangistau region began to spread when rioters blocked a
passenger train and vandalised a village before police opened
fire, killing one person, prosecutors said om Sunday.

A group of people in Shetpe, a train station about 100
kilometres (60 miles) from the regional center Aktau on the
Caspian sea, stopped a train with 300 passengers and "called
for support of mass riots," the Kazakh general prosecutor
said.

Some 50 people resisted police demands, set the train on
fire and proceeded to vandalise the village near the station.

"Police were forced to open fire," wounding 12 and killing one
person, the statement said.

Riots in the western region of resource-rich Kazakhstan
began in Zhanaozen on Friday when people in oil workers`
uniforms toppled a Christmas tree and sound equipment set up
on the main square for Independence day festivities.

The official toll from riots in the region rose to 12 by
today morning.

The rioting escalated despite a 20-day state of emergency
introduced in Zhanaozen yesterday by President Nursultan
Nazarbayev, who also called rioters "hooligans," alleging that
they are paid to destabilise the region and attack peaceful
residents.

However opposition socialist websites slammed the police
for opening fire on an unarmed crowd and escalating a conflict
between oil workers and Kazmunaigaz oil company.

Workers in Zhanaozen and other cities in the Mangistau
region on the Caspian Sea have been on strike for months for
higher wages, in a highly unusual dispute for the Central
Asian state which prides itself on its ability to attract
foreign investors.

The town has been virtually cut off from communication
with phones disconnected, radio equipment prohibited, and
authorities blocking the main road and performing identity
checks.

Kazakhstan was the last of 15 Soviet republics to declare
its independence from the fading Soviet Union, on December 16,
1991.

Its vast energy reserves are hugely attractive for
neighbouring energy-hungry China as well as for the West,
which is keen to reduce Europe`s dependence on Russia`s
hydrocarbons.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 15:30

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