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Kazakh President Extends State Of Emergency In Oil City

Kazakh troops on patrol near partially burnt buildings damaged during riots in the restive town of Zhanaozen
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has issued a decree extending until January 31 a state of emergency in the western oil city of Zhanaozen, where at least 16 people were killed in violent clashes last month.

The state of emergency, imposed the day after the December 16 clashes, had been due to expire on January 5. No reason was given for the extension.

The clashes coincided with celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of independence and came after a seven-month strike by oil workers.

Authorities blamed the violence on "hooligans" and arrested dozens of people on suspicion of triggering the clashes.

Prosecutors also opened an investigation into accusations police fired on demonstrators after video footage posted online showed police apparently beating and shooting at oil workers.

The United States and the European Union have expressed concern over the violence and urged authorities to conduct a transparent investigation.

Kazakhstan holds an early parliamentary election on January 15 in which Nazarbaev's Nur Otan party is widely expected to win a majority of seats.

compiled from agency reports