Security is tight in Kazakhstan following a shooting spree and a suicide bombing by a suspected militant that killed seven people in the southern town of Taraz, near the Kyrgyz border, on November 12.
Security and law-enforcement agencies are reported to have been put on high alert in southern areas as well as in the capital Astana in the wake of the attack, the deadliest in a recent spate of blasts.
The Taraz attacker, a 34-year-old named by authorities as M.K. Kariev, shot dead four law-enforcement officers and two civilians before being caught by a police captain. Kariev then blew up explosives strapped to his belt, killing himself and the police officer.
A little-known group, Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate), said it was behind the Taraz attack.
The same group had also claimed responsibility for two bombings late last month in the western Kazakh city of Atyrau after earlier threatening violence over a new law banning prayers in state institutions.
Increased Military Presence
RFE/RL's correspondent in the southern city of Almaty, the Kazakh business capital, said police and men in military uniform are out in greater force than usual.
Officials in neighboring Kyrgyzstan say additional security measures are in place along the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border to prevent possible attempts by any accomplices of the Taraz attacker to escape to Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakh officials rejected earlier media reports that a curfew has been put in place in Taraz. A local man, who did not want to give his name, told RFE/RL that city inhabitants are anxious following the attack, and that parents are no longer allowing their children to leave home unaccompanied.
"People are not letting their kids go outside," he said. "Parents are taking their children to schools and kindergartens, and accompanying the kids on their way back home. People are scared. To put it simply: no one feels safe."
Kazakh officials have described the Taraz attacker as a "follower of jihadism." Kazakh prosecutors are treating his attack as "acts of terrorism," and authorities say they are not ruling out the possibility that Kariev had accomplices.
"We are trying to shed light on Kariev's acquaintances, circle, and relatives, and also on why he carried out this crime," Marat Kozhaev, deputy head of the regional interior affairs' department, told reporters.
Previously One Of The Most Stable Countries In The Region
An oil-rich nation of some 16.6 million inhabitants, Kazakhstan has been seen one of the most stable countries in Central Asia. The country, however, has seen several bombings this year, which authorities have blamed on Islamic militants.
Two explosions, including the country's first-known suicide bombing, killed at least two people in May.
With seven victims, the Taraz attack is the bloodiest in the country's recent history. The five slain officers -- three policemen and two security service officers -- were buried November 12 after an official funeral ceremony in Taraz Dinamo stadium.
In a special meeting with top defense, security, interior affairs, and justice officials, President Nursultan Nazarbaev offered his condolences to the families of those killed during the rampage.
Nazarbaev commended the officers' "heroic actions" and said they will be honored with state medals. He also instructed local officials to provide "all necessary aid for the families and children" of the victims.
written by Farangis Najibullah based on Kazakh Service material and agency reports