Kazakhstan says nearly 8,000 arrested as president calls it a 'coup attempt'

Widespread unrest was worst in Central Asian nation's post-Soviet history

Peaceful protests against fuel price increases turned violent, with government buildings briefly captured or torched in several cities. Photo: EPA

Kazakhstan's security forces have detained 7,939 people as of Monday over last week's unrest, the Interior Ministry has said.

It was the worst violence in the Central Asian nation's post-Soviet history, with 164 people reportedly killed.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday called the unrest a coup attempt and vowed his security services would never shoot peaceful protesters.

“Armed militants who were waiting in the wings joined the protests. The main goal was obvious: the undermining of the constitutional order, the destruction of government institutions and the seizure of power. It was an attempted coup d'etat”, he said.

Government buildings were briefly captured or torched in several cities last week as initially peaceful protests against fuel price increases turned violent.

The authorities have blamed the violence on “extremists” and “terrorists”, some of whom they say were foreigners.

Karim Masimov, former head of the National Security Committee, was detained on suspicion of treason last week, days after Mr Tokayev dismissed him.

Mr Tokayev has also sacked his Cabinet, issued shoot-to-kill orders and declared a state of emergency in the oil-rich nation of 19 million. He also asked a Russian-led military bloc to send troops, who the government says have been stationed to guard strategic objects.

On Monday, Mr Tokayev said his security forces would “never fire” on peaceful protesters and that a Moscow-led military mission in Kazakhstan would end “soon".

Kazakhstan unrest — in pictures

Russian and state media cited a government social media post when reporting the deaths of 164 people. But health and police authorities did not confirm the figure and the social media post was then deleted.

“I think there was some kind of a conspiracy involving domestic and certain foreign destructive forces,” Secretary of State Erlan Karin told state television on Monday, without naming any suspects.

Updated: January 10th 2022, 8:54 AM