State of emergency declared in Kazakhstan oil city after 10 died in clashes

(CNN) — A 20-day state of emergency was declared Saturday in the Kazakhstan’s oil city of Zhanaozen after violent clashes between police and striking oil workers left 10 persons dead.

The clashes, which injured police officers and involved looting and burning, occurred Friday as the former Soviet state celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence, according to Russian and Kazakh state-run media.

“In order to restore the economy of the town of Zhanaozen, restore the facilities that were burned down, and, most importantly, ensure the security of the citizens I am issuing a decree on the introduction of the state of emergency in the town of Zhanaozen according to the constitution and the law on the state of emergency,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in a statement.

“It will be in force for 20 days, beginning today. If we are able to resolve all issues before then, and if calm is ensured, it can be rescinded at any time,” the president said Saturday.

The Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday that eyewitnesses saw police fire upon unarmed striking oil workers in the country’s western oil city, an accusation denied by authorities.

Eyewitnesses claim police fired on unarmed striking oil workers in the western town of Zhanaozen on Friday, a charge denied by the authorities.

The opposition Social Democratic Party (OSDP) called for an emergency panel to investigate, and the commission should be made up of “senior officials, striking oil workers, and representatives of the public and press,” the Russian news agency reported.

The violence erupted as police tried to clear protesters from the town’s main square that was occupied by workers for more than six months, the Russian agency said.

The president provided a different account saying “a group of hooligans” attacked “peaceful citizens” gathered on the central square to commemorate independence.

“In response to the demands of the police to stop their illegal actions, the group of hooligans attacked police officers seeking to seize their weapons. Yet, the police officers did not allow that to happen,” Nazarbayev said.

The mayor’s office and a nearby village’s administrative office, a hotel and an office building were burned during the violence, the president said. Also torched were cars, he said. Banks, ATM machines and shops were looted, he said.

“A total of 46 facilities were attacked. In that small town, almost all facilities were attacked, burned or destroyed,” the president said.


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