Six people have been killed in a shootout with security forces in Almaty, raising concerns that the terrorism that stalked Kazakhstan last year is rearing its head once again.
The six, suspected of involvement in the killing of a police officer in Almaty on July 28, were shot dead by police in an apartment block in a residential district on July 30 after refusing to surrender, Tengri News quoted a police spokeswoman as saying. The group was engaged in criminal activity including robbery, and authorities suspect they may be religious extremists.
Security forces hunting for suspects in the July 28 shooting death of a police officer had sealed off the apartment block.
The violence comes three weeks after an explosion in a house on the outskirts of Almaty left eight people dead in a case police are treating as terrorism. It blew up on the night of July 10-11, killing the four adults and four children. Suspicious items found among the debris included weapons, ammunition, and police uniforms and equipment, Megapolis newspaper reported.
Kazakhstan, which had long prided itself on its reputation for stability, was last year hit by a string of attacks across the country, mostly targeting law-enforcement bodies.
They began with Kazakhstan’s first-ever suicide bombing in the western city of Aktobe in May and culminated in a shooting spree in November in the southern city of Taraz which left eight dead.
In between those attacks several police officers were murdered. The killing of two in the western village of Shubarshi last summer prompted a manhunt that ended in a bloodbath, leaving nine suspects and two more officers dead.
A shadowy group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) has claimed responsibility for several incidents. Some analysts doubt the group exists, though Kazakh investigators say it does.
The violence, including the two incidents this month, has left at least 50 dead, including 15 members of the security forces.