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Death Toll Rises To 10 From Ethnically Fueled Kazakh Clashes

Riot police deployed to the village of Masanchi on February 8.
Riot police deployed to the village of Masanchi on February 8.

Kazakh Deputy Interior Minister Aleksei Kalayichi has raised the death toll to 10 from ethnically fueled violence that erupted in a village in southern Kazakhstan late on February 7 and spread to nearby communities.

The clashes were some of the worst ethnic violence in years in the Zhambyl region, located about 130 kilometers west of Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, and prompted authorities in the district of Kordai to declare a state of emergency.

It was unclear what sparked the incidents, which mostly appeared to pit ethnic Kazakhs against Dungans, a Muslim group of Chinese origin.

Eight people died at the scene and two more died despite emergency treatment, officials said early on February 9.

Officials said 140 people sought medical treatment in Kazakhstan and two dozen more in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Thirty-nine more people reportedly remained hospitalized early on February 9, including three officials who sustained gunshot wounds, according to Kalayichi.

Hundreds Flee To Kyrgyzstan After Deadly Ethnic Clashes In Rural Kazakhstan
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WATCH: Hundreds Flee To Kyrgyzstan After Deadly Ethnic Clashes In Rural Kazakhstan

Villagers reportedly attacked each other in groups, and bands of men torched homes, overturned cars, and sent hundreds of people fleeing into nearby Kyrgyzstan.

Dungans make up much of the population in Masanchi, which was the worst-hit village.

Several other outlying villages also reported clashes.

In an unscheduled televised appearance, President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said he had ordered security agencies to prosecute those spreading hate speech and "provocative rumors and disinformation."

Toqaev called for calm.

Kazakh law enforcement deployed riot police to the area on February 8, hours after the initial fighting.

By February 9, authorities said they believed around 300 people had taken part in the mob violence and they had already launched criminal cases, including for suspected murder.

RFE/RL correspondents reported long lines of police, holding riot shields and truncheons, along roads in the region.

On February 8, groups of mainly ethnic Dungans could be seen lining up along the Kyrgyz side of the border, while on the other side of the border, Dungan people handed out food and offered medical assistance to those coming across.

Footage circulating on social media late on February 7 showed young men, some armed with clubs, marching along the road of a village in the area with buildings on fire. Many of the videos could not be independently verified.

At a press conference in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, Interior Minister Erlan Turghymbaev said 30 homes, 15 shops, and 20 cars had been damaged in Masanchi, and other villages in the region.

One Kyrgyz source claimed thousands of people had fled across the border into Kyrgyzstan, but that information could not be independently verified by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

Kyrgyz authorities were already strengthening border checks in an effort to combat the possible spread of the Wuhan coronavirus that has killed more than 800 people in neighboring China.

With reporting by Interfax
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