Former counterterrorism chief arrested for protests in Kazakhstan


The body of a victim lying near a military truck, which was set on fire after clashes, is seen in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Thursday, January 6, 2022. The President of Kazakhstan on Friday authorized security forces to shoot for kill those participating in the unrest, opening the door for a dramatic escalation in the crackdown on anti-government protests that have turned violent. The Central Asian nation has seen its worst street protests this week since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago, and dozens of people have been killed in the uproar. (Vladimir Tretyakov / NUR.KZ via AP)


The former head of Kazakhstan’s counter-intelligence and counterterrorism agency has been arrested for attempting to overthrow the government following violent protests the president blamed on foreign-backed terrorists.

Karim Masimov’s arrest was announced on Saturday by the National Security Committee, which Masimov headed until he was ousted this week by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Authorities say security forces killed 26 protesters in this week’s unrest and 18 law enforcement officials have died. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

The protests in the Central Asian country were the most widespread since Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The unrest began in the far west of the country during protests against the sharp rise in the prices of liquefied petroleum gas, widely used as fuel for vehicles. The protests spread to the country’s largest city, Almaty, where protesters seized and torched government buildings.

At Tokayev’s request, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military alliance made up of six former Soviet states, authorized the dispatch of around 2,500 mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan in as peacekeepers.

Part of the force guards government facilities in the capital, Nur-Sultan, which “freed part of the Kazakh security forces and redeployed them to Almaty to participate in the anti-terrorism operation”, according to a statement from Tokayev’s office.

Tokayev said on Friday that he had authorized security forces to shoot to kill those participating in the unrest. On Saturday, no incidents were immediately reported in Almaty. Police broke up a protest and arrested people in Aktau town, while sporadic gunfire was heard in Kyzylorda, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.

No details were given of what Masimov, the former head of the security agency, allegedly did that would constitute an attempt to overthrow the government. The National Security Committee, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for counterintelligence, border guard service and counterterrorism activities.

Although the protests began as denunciations of the near doubling of LPG prices earlier this year, their spread and intense violence indicate that they reflect widespread discontent in the former Soviet republic ruled by the same party since. over 30 years.

Many protesters shouted “Old man out,” a reference to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was president from Kazakhstan’s independence until his resignation in 2019 and anointed Tokayev as his successor.

Nazarbayev, who received the title “ebasy,” or leader of the nation, retained substantial power as head of the National Security Council. But Tokayev removed him from his post as council chief amid this week’s unrest, possibly aiming for a concession to appease protesters.

Nazarbayev remained invisible during the chaos, but on Saturday his spokesperson said that Nazarbayev was in the capital and “called on everyone to join forces with the President of Kazakhstan to overcome the current challenges and ensure the integrity of our country.” .