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Kazakh Officials Say Attacks Linked To Presidential Opponent Averted

Exiled Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov has been accused of being behind a series of attacks in Kazakhstan.
Exiled Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov has been accused of being behind a series of attacks in Kazakhstan.
Kazakh authorities say security forces have thwarted a planned series of "terrorist" attacks, which investigators have linked to exiled banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, a leading opponent of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement that the attacks were averted "at the preparatory stage."

Prosecutors say the ringleaders of the plot planned on March 24 to set off explosions in parks and administrative buildings in Almaty city.

They said several individuals "have been arrested and are making confessions."

Prosecutors also said the planned strikes were masterminded by Ablyazov's personal security head, Aleksandr Pavlov, and a leading member of the unregistered opposition Algha (Forward) party, Muratbek Ketebaev.

Allegations Denied

Algha has dismissed the allegations, saying they have been concocted by the State Security Committee, Kazakhstan's successor organization to the KGB, in an attempt to destroy the group.

Algha is one of the most vocal critics of Nazarbaev's authoritarian government, and has been denied official registration for several years.

Denial of official status prevented the party from having the option of competing in last January's parliamentary elections.

According to the official results, Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan party gained more than 80 percent of the vote in that poll.

Algha’s leader Vladimir Kozlov was arrested in January after he visited the southwestern town of Zhanaozen, where police shot dead at least 16 protesters in mid-December.

Kozlov, who remains in pretrial detention in Almaty, has been charged with inciting social hatred.

Algha is a political party that emerged from the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), an opposition political movement co-founded by Ablyazov in November 2001.

Long-Running Skirmishes With Authorities

Shortly afterwards, Ablyazov, who served as minister for energy, industry and trade in Nazarbaev's government, was arrested.

In July 2002 he was convicted of "abusing official powers as a minister" and sentenced to six years in prison.

He was released in 2003 after serving 10 months, on the condition that he quit involvement in politics.

Ablyazov moved to Moscow in 2003 to rebuild his business career, and in 2005 became chairman of the BTA Bank in Almaty.

In 2009, he fled Kazakhstan after authorities seized BTA and launched investigations into alleged financial crimes.

After settling in London, British authorities, at the behest of Kazakh officials, began to investigate him for financial crimes allegedly connected to BTA.

He was sentenced by a London court in February to 22 months in jail for contempt, but fled Britain before he could be taken into custody.

His current whereabouts is unknown.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
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