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Kazakh Security Forces Seal Off Center Of Restive Oil Town

Riot police patrol Zhanaozen in December.
ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh security forces and police have sealed off the center of the western town of Zhanaozen, amid a renewal of tensions in the town where security forces shot dead at least 16 people in December.

The forces were deployed amid reports of possible new mass protests by residents to demand the release of relatives who were sentenced to jail last month for allegedly inciting unrest during last year's strike in Zhanaozen by disgruntled oil workers.

The strike preceded December's riots and bloodshed.

Zhanaozen officials said additional security forces were deployed in the town on July 25 to prevent “possible disorders.”

Earlier this month, Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, visited Zhanaozen and criticized authorities for failing to fully and transparently investigate the December violence.

With reporting by Interfax