Five militants, two police killed in Kazakhstan clash

AFP , Sunday 4 Dec 2011

Five militants and two members of an elite police force were killed in a clash in southern Kazakhstan amid concerns about rising Islamist unrest in the normally stable Central Asian state

The clash that left seven people dead took place during a special operation against suspected militants in a village just outside Kazakhstan's largest city and former capital of Almaty, where prosecutors said they had been planning attacks.

The spokesman for general prosecutors Nurdaulet Suindikov said the militants hid in a house in the village of Boraldai but then they were surrounded by the security forces as residents were evacuated for their own safety.

"Two members of the special Arystan battalion of the national security committee were killed," he said in the capital Astana.

"After refusing to give themselves up and providing armed resistance, five members of the terrorist group were killed, including their leader."

He said that the group had been behind the murder of two police on November 8 and were planning new "violent acts" in Almaty. There were no civilian casualties in the clash.

The clash came three weeks after seven people were killed in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz when a suspected Islamist went on a shooting rampage and then blew himself up.

Such unrest has until recently been highly unusual in majority Muslim but secular Kazakhstan, which under strongman leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has earned a reputation as by far the most stable country in Central Asia.

Around 70 per cent of Kazakhstan's 16.5 million people are Muslims and Kazakh authorities have repeatedly expressed concern about Islamic extremism sweeping in from other Central Asian states and Afghanistan.

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