Kazakhstan: Suicide Bomb Suspected in Oil City Explosions
Two mysterious explosions hit Kazakhstan's western oil hub of Atyrau on October 31 within the space of five minutes, one of which may have been a botched suicide bombing.The first exploded in a trash can near the local government headquarters at 9:45 a.m., law enforcers said, and the second followed in a residential district outside the city center.The second was a suicide bomb, Kazinform quoted law-enforcement sources as saying – but they offered no explanation about what the target might have been, raising the prospect that the device may have detonated by accident. The bomber was killed on the spot and an 18-month-old baby was injured by flying glass when the blast blew out windows in a nearby apartment block.This is the latest in a spate of perplexing explosions in Kazakhstan – usually hailed as the most stable country in volatile Central Asia – which began with the country’s first-ever suicide bombing in another oil city, Aktobe, in May. Officials blamed that blast on the mafia. A baffling car explosion in Astana a week later, which officials have never satisfactorily explained, killed two men. All these pyrotechnics have stirred fears that Islamic radicalism is on the rise in Kazakhstan, apprehensions that were stoked by a shootout between security forces and a group of suspects in western Kazakhstan in July that ended in a bloodbath.The following month officials announced they had thwarted a terror plot in Atyrau, the scene of the latest unexplained explosions.Today's blasts come 10 days after a little-known group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) posted an online video showing gun-toting militants threatening Kazakhstan with reprisals unless it repeals a controversial new law on religion adopted in response to the rising extremist threat.It seems unlikely that the Soldiers of the Caliphate have marched on Atyrau, but the explosions serve as further unwelcome evidence that all is not well in Kazakhstan’s oil-rich west.