Kazakh oil region riots spread, death toll up
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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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