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Overnight Blast Targets Interior Ministry In West Kazakhstan


Kazakh police cordoned off the area around the Interior Ministry offices where the blast hit on September 15.
An overnight explosion and gun battle near a police station in tense western Kazakhstan has left at least two policemen injured, according to reports cited by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

The incident comes days after a deadly operation in the same province to round up alleged terrorists thought to be responsible for a bombing near a mosque about a week ago.

The latest blast occurred shortly after midnight on September 15 in the courtyard of local Interior Ministry offices in the provincial capital, Atyrau.

Witnesses were quoted as saying an exchange of gunfire followed the explosion.

Authorities immediately cordoned off the area and were searching passing cars in an effort to find those responsible.

A state television station saying "several" police officers had been wounded in the initial explosion.

One police source told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that six people had been arrested in connection with the incident.

It marks the third violent incident in the Atyrau region this month.

One person was killed when an explosive device detonated in a private apartment near a mosque on September 5.

A week later, on September 12, security forces reported killing five alleged terrorists and seriously wounding another in a raid on an apartment building with a suspected connection to that explosion.
Police inspect a car near the scene of the September 15 incident.
Police inspect a car near the scene of the September 15 incident.

Western Kazakhstan has seen a number of bloody incidents as tensions have mounted over labor disputes and other social frictions in the past 18 months or so.

The first suicide bombing in Kazakh memory was reported in May 2011 in the western city of Aqtobe, injuring three people.

Less than six months later, bombers targeted a regional prosecutor's office in downtown Atyrau.

International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently accused the government in Astana and several oil firms of systematic violations of the rights of thousands of oil workers in the west of the country. HRW charged in a September 10 report that extended protests in 2011, which resulted in the killing of at least 16 workers by police and thousands of layoffs, highlighted a broader issue of “disregard for workers’ rights and other human rights.”
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