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Kazakhs Mark Independence Day, Deadly Protest Anniversaries

ALMATY -- People across Kazakhstan are marking the country's Independence Day holiday while activists are also holding special events to commemorate the deaths of demonstrators during protest actions.

Bauyrzhan Baibek, the mayor of Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, laid flowers at a downtown monument on December 16 to mark the Central Asian country's independence anniversary.

Later, dozens of activists led by opposition leaders Zharmakhan Tuyaqbai and Zhasaral Quanyshalin came to the same monument and laid flowers to commemorate the victims of deadly protests by oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen on December 16, 2011.

Police shot dead at least 16 people and injured more than 100 others during a crackdown on demonstrators after a long strike by oil workers.

The activists in Almaty said they also came to commemorate the victims of the December 16-19, 1986, crackdown on anti-Kremlin rallies by young Kazakhs who protested Moscow's decision to replace Kazakhstan's long-term leader, Dinmukhammed Konaev, with Mikhail Kolbin, an ethnic Russian sent from Russia.

Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed by security forces during a crackdown on the protesters.

Kazakhstan was the last of the 15 Soviet republics to declare independence as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

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