Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Wednesday that the perpetrators of deadly attacks in a city in the country's oil belt were acting on instructions “from abroad.”
Gunmen went on the rampage in the northwestern city of Aktobe near the Russian border on Sunday, killing three civilians at two gun stores before trying to storm a military base with a hijacked bus, killing three soldiers.
In a statement on the violence Nazarbayev called the attackers “followers of radical pseudo-religious groups” adding that the gunmen had operated on “instructions received from abroad.”
Nazarbayev also appeared to make a link between recent rallies protesting the government’s proposed land policy changes and the attacks that have led to heightened security measures across the vast country.
Thirteen suspects have been killed in police anti-terror raids since the attacks.
“We all know that the so-called “color revolutions” have different methods and begin with contrived rallies, murder, and attempts to seize power,” Nazarbayev said in a statement published on the presidential website.
“These symptoms have also manifested themselves in our country,” the 75-year-old autocrat added, noting that Thursday would be a day of national mourning in respect of the victims of the attacks.
Earlier on Wednesday, he held a televised meeting with the KNB National Security Committee chief in which he demanded that “every last criminal must be apprehended. In the case of armed resistance, killed.”
“All of them should (receive) the strictest punishment,” Nazarbayev ordered KNB head Vladimir Zhumakanov.
Zhumakanov informed Nazarbayev of reports gunmen had opened fire on guards at a children’s summer camp in Aktobe Wednesday, a report swiftly denied by police.
The country’s information minister, Dauren Abayev later moved to dismiss the incident, saying the “sounds (created by) a faulty automobile” had been mistaken for gunfire.
Police said Wednesday they had detained one more suspect in the weekend attacks and that six suspects were still on the loose. For much of its independence Kazakhstan was able to avoid the kind of political tumult seen in other countries in ex-Soviet Central Asia.
But growing social dissatisfaction in the majority Muslim nation has grown as the economy reels from low oil prices and a crisis in neighboring Russia, a strategic ally.
In May, authorities detained hundreds of people for attempting to attend unsanctioned rallies against controversial amendments to the country’s land code the government hoped would boost foreign investment.
The KNB has since said the rallies were organized as part of a coup plot by a local businessmen that once headed one of the country’s largest breweries.