A fatal clash between ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Chechens in a village in south-eastern Kazakhstan has raised questions about whether the country's much-touted ethnic harmony is under threat, and whether socio-economic tensions are endangering stability in this booming state.
The unrest began March 17 with a fight over a game of billiards and ended with an attack on the house of a Chechen family that left five dead. Eyewitnesses say violence broke out in the village of Malovodnoye, about 80 kilometers east of Almaty, when Takhir Makhmakhanov, an ethnic Chechen from the neighboring village of Kazatkom, refused to concede defeat to his rival, Baurzhan Salimbayev, an ethnic Kazakh. After the two came to blows, Salimbayev left the billiards hall, but was chased by Makhmakhanov, who ran into him in a jeep and broke his leg, then shot him in the other leg.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asian affairs.