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Case Of Deadly 2019 Kazakh Ammo Blasts Returned To Investigators

Military workers clear debris in the aftermath of the explosion in Arys, a small town in the Turkestan region, in June 2019.
Military workers clear debris in the aftermath of the explosion in Arys, a small town in the Turkestan region, in June 2019.

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Shymkent has returned to investigators the case of a series of deadly ammunition warehouse blasts in 2019 citing "irregularities."

Ghani Oteuliev, a spokesman for the Shymkent Garrison military court, told RFE/RL on January 29 that the decision was made due to "inconsistencies found in the materials of the case and some facts proving that more individuals must be held accountable for the incident."

Sixteen Kazakh military officers and Defense Ministry officials went on trial in June 2020 over blasts which claimed four lives and injured dozens of residents in the town of Arys, 67 kilometers west of Shymkent, the third-largest city in the Central Asian nation.

The charges against the defendants include negligence and violating safety regulations while storing arms and ammunition.

Some 35,000 residents of the town fled their homes for Shymkent and nearby towns, returning days later after authorities lifted a state of emergency.

Kazakh officials said that 85 percent of the town's buildings, mainly private houses, had been damaged by heavy smoke, shock waves, and flying debris from the blasts.

The government has promised to rebuild the houses, but many residents have complained that the rebuilding efforts have been too slow.

After the blasts, hundreds of people rallied in Shymkent and blocked a major road demanding to be relocated permanently because they were afraid to go back as the June blasts were just the latest in a series of explosions to hit the depot since 2009.

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