Kazakhstan Declares Terrorism Alert After Attacks Kill Five

  • Three police among dead in Almaty shootings, ministry says
  • Nazarbayev says ‘decisive measures’ needed to keep order

Kazakhstan declared a terrorism alert in Almaty, the country’s financial center, after five people including three policemen were killed during attacks by militants.

The officers died during gun battles with a man who’d attacked a district police building in the city on Monday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Two policemen were also wounded and the militant shot a civilian dead when he tried to steal his car, it said. The attacker was arrested and police later detained a suspected accomplice, the ministry’s press service said.

A retired policeman also died in the attack on the police building, Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kassymov told President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a meeting of the Kazakh security council, according to the presidential press office. Eight people are in the hospital after being wounded during the clashes, a Health Ministry spokesman said by phone.

The shootings took place little more than a month after the mainly Muslim central Asian republic suffered its largest terrorist incident, in which 26 people were killed when Islamist militants attacked a gun shop and a military base in the city of Aktobe. Kazakhstan is reeling from the impact of the slump in oil prices, with the economy at risk of its first contraction since 1998 after the tenge declined by 45 percent against the dollar in the past year.

‘Social Tension’

“A mood of increasing social tension linked to the economic downturn is likely to be encouraging disillusioned, radicalized individuals to mount these attacks,” Eimear O’Casey, an analyst at Control Risks, said in an e-mail. While the “relatively amateur” attacks don’t threaten the government, they’re a “major concern for the authorities,” she said.

The public “must be confident that the most decisive measures are being taken to restore order,” Nazarbayev said in comments posted on his press service’s website after the security council meeting.

Residents of Almaty, energy-rich Kazakhstan’s largest city, were told to stay at home during the anti-terrorism operation after the authorities declared a “red” alert, allowing police to restrict the movement of vehicles and to search properties. The alert was later lowered to “yellow” after the operation was completed, the Kazakh security service said on its website.

The tenge was little changed at 339.3 per dollar at 6:10 p.m. in Almaty. The yield on Kazakh government bonds due in 2024 rose three basis points to 3.73 percent, the highest in almost a week.

“Kazakhstan is more vulnerable now to acts of protest than it has ever been, owing to the end of an era of high oil prices,” Kate Mallinson, a partner at London-based political risk advisory firm GPW & Co., said by e-mail. “The government’s historically punitive attitudes toward non-official religious movements has created a many-headed hydra” that will be “difficult to overcome,” she said.

Russia is concerned about turbulence in neighboring states, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday. Events in Kazakhstan, Turkey, following the attempted coup, and Armenia, where an armed group holding hostages at a police station is demanding the resignation of the country’s leadership, are being closely followed, Peskov said.

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