Former anti-terror chief arrested over Kazakhstan protests

Former anti-terror chief arrested over Kazakhstan protests

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Almaty: The former head of the Kazakhstan Internal Security Service was detained on suspicion of treason, the agency said on Saturday after being fired in an unprecedented unrest.

The detention of Karim Masimov, a former prime minister and longtime ally of Kazakhstan s ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the first major move against a top official in the biggest crisis the ex-Soviet Central Asian republic has faced in years.

Nazarbayev s spokesman meanwhile denied rumours the ex-president had left the country and said he was urging Kazakhs to rally around the government.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked Masimov earlier this week after protests over rising fuel prices erupted into widespread violence, with government buildings in the largest city Almaty stormed and set ablaze.

Authorities said Friday the situation was largely under control, but Tokayev issued a shoot-to-kill order and rejected any negotiations with protesters.

An AFP reporter in Almaty said that the city was quiet but tense on Saturday, and security forces shot and warned anyone approaching the central square.

Masimov, 56, twice served as Nazarbayev s prime minister and had been head of the National Security Committee, or KNB, since 2016.

The KNB said in a statement that it had launched an investigation into charges of high treason on Thursday and that Masimov had been detained the same day “on suspicion of committing this crime”.

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