Two cops have been shot dead in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, Kazakhstan Today reports. The latest violence is advancing concerns that terrorist activity is on the rise in the energy-rich state.
The officers died after unidentified assailants shot them on a thoroughfare outside the city center on the evening of November 8.
This is not the first slaying of police officers in recent times—two were murdered in the western Kazakh village of Shubarshi in June, prompting a security operation in which two more law-enforcement officers and nine suspects were killed.
Another police officer was killed in July in the western oil city of Aktobe in an incident in which a suspect blew himself up.
The latest shooting – which has not been proven to have a terrorist link – follows two explosions in another western oil city, Atyrau, on October 31 which killed one man in what appeared to be a botched suicide bombing.
A little-known militant group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) claimed responsibility, in protest at Kazakhstan’s controversial new religion law. Some observers doubt the group exists as a credible force, but on November 9 the prosecutor’s office said it believed the group was involved. Authorities made three arrests and said they had smashed a terrorist ring of four (including the dead bomber).
Around 40 people were also detained in August and September on suspicion of hatching terrorist plots in Atyrau Region in security sweeps that left one suspect dead.
The spate of incidents followed Kazakhstan’s first suicide bombing in Aktobe in May, and a mysterious car explosion a week later in the capital, Astana, that has never been explained.
The death toll so far is at least 22, including the two latest police killings—seven law-enforcement officers; two suicide bombers; two occupants of the exploding car; nine suspects killed in the Shubarshi incident; one man who blew himself up in Aktobe; and another suspect killed by police during the August sweeps in Atyrau Region.
Astana has launched a clampdown on extremism. But the latest incident proves that cops remain in the firing line.