The weekend’s bloodshed in Kazakhstan seemed to catch the government off-guard. While Kazakhstan has experienced radical-driven violence in the past, until a few days ago authorities seemed more concerned about security threats emanating from domestic political critics than from Islamic militants.
It took almost a full day after the spate of deadly shootouts broke out in the western oil city of Aktobe for either Prime Minister Karim Masimov or President Nursultan Nazarbayev to make a public statement about the events.
“The head of the state is maintaining this issue under his control,” Masimov told a June 6 Cabinet meeting in perfunctory remarks on the violence.
Security officials have hastily described the violence in Aktobe as the handiwork of religious extremists — code for militant Islamists — but such is the extent of the information blackout that definitively establishing motives is difficult. The plug was pulled on Internet connections in the city soon after the unrest began, and what little independent information has filtered out has come through phone calls and SMS messages conveying scant witness testimonies.
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