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Kazakh President Rejects Violent Brawl Last Week Was Interethnic

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

EKIBASTUZ, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has denied reports that a violent brawl last week, which erupted following a fight at school between ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs in the Almaty region, was sparked by ethnic tensions.

The clashes between Uyghurs and Kazakhs that followed a mass fight between teenagers in a local school left several private houses and vehicles in Penzhim damaged and one house destroyed by fire.

Aset Ospanov of the Interior Ministry publicly described the clashes that left two people injured as interethnic violence, a term also used in local media to depict the events that took place on October 27.

But Toqaev rejected the characterization, saying during a speech in the city of Ekibastuz on November 4 that those who sparked the clashes were "provocateurs."

"There were no ethnic clashes! But certain groups of provocateurs and ill-wishers for our country prompted the event in question in a different way... Such provocateurs are undermining our country's national security," Toqaev said.

Officials in the former Soviet republic that is home to more than 100 ethnic groups have tried to avoid describing conflicts between such groups -- which have been on the rise in recent years -- as interethnic clashes.

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Last year, Toqaev also rejected that clashes between ethnic Dungans and Kazakhs in the southern region of Zhambyl were interethnic, blaming unspecified "criminal groups" for the violence that left 11 people dead and forced about 23,000 Dungans to flee across the border to Kyrgyzstan. Authorities said at the time that the majority of Dungans returned to Kazakhstan days later.

In July last year, clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kazakhs in Kazakhstan's south left four people, including a policeman, injured.

Authorities have often downplayed the ethnic element in such conflicts, instead attributing them to "social issues."

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