ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AFP) – Three police officers and one civilian were killed Monday (July 18) following armed attacks on a police station and a security service office in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty, the interior ministry said.
Parts of the city were in lockdown following the incident with one suspect in custody and a manhunt underway for an accomplice still at large, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The detained man is accused of killing a local resident during a carjacking and attacking a police station at around 11am (1pm Singapore), shooting a police officer and taking his gun, said the statement.
The suspect then shot two officers as they gave chase before being arrested.
“According to preliminary information, the detained man is a 27-year-old man with previous convictions,” the ministry said, adding that he is “suspected of murdering a woman at the weekend”.
It said that police are now searching for the gunman’s “partner in crime.” Local media reported that at least seven police are being treated in hospital.
The country’s anti-terror service has issued a red alert threat warning following the attacks and police have called on residents of the city to stay in their homes.
A woman who lives in the Almalinsky district of Almaty where the police station was attacked told AFP the situation in the city was “very tense”.
“I left Almalinsky district in the morning and everything was calm. Now I do not know how I am going to return home,” the 22-year-old woman, Sholpan, told AFP by telephone.
Several areas of the city have been cordoned off including the city’s railway station, witnesses told AFP.
The country has been rocked by several violent incidents in recent months.
Gunmen went on a rampage in the northwestern city of Aktobe near the Russian border on June 5, 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 last month’s violence President Nursultan Nazarbayev called the attackers “followers of radical pseudo-religious groups” adding that the gunmen had operated on “instructions received from abroad.” At least 18 suspects were killed in police anti-terror raids following those attacks.
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 neighbouring Russia, a strategic ally.