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Toll from Kazakhstan clashes rises to ten dead

AFP  |  Nur-Sultan 

The toll from rare clashes in a part of ethnically-mixed southern Kazakhstan has risen to 10 dead, officials said Sunday with signs that tensions had eased since the violence flared two days ago.

Deputy Interior Minister Aleksei Kalaichidi told reporters the toll was ten dead from Friday's unrest in the Jambyl region, which saw many flee over the border to Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities had previously said eight people died. Kalaichidi said 39 people were still receiving treatment in Kazakh hospitals on Sunday.

He did not say whether the higher toll resulted from people dying of their wounds. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Saturday the violence had been quelled.

The violence has sparked concern among authorities who portray the country as a beacon of stability and inter-ethnic harmony.

The conflict is widely believed to have pitted titular Kazakhs against minority Dungans, but authorities did not confirm this.

Kalaichidi said five police officers were injured in the clashes including three from gunshot wounds. "I want to note that the police did not use weapons," he said.

The initial brawl involved about 70 people before involving at least 300 villagers, the authorities said.

Kalaichidi blamed the escalation on "provocateurs and eyewitnesses, who filmed the incident on video and then sent it with various comments via social networks." "This led to the escalation of the conflict and the involvement in it of residents from nearby settlements," he said.

Media in Kyrgyzstan reported that up to 4,000 people crossed the border from oil-rich Kazakhstan into the poorer republic on Saturday, mostly ethnic minority Dungans.

An AFP correspondent saw around a thousand people queing to leave the country at a single border crossing late on Saturday evening.

An AFP journalist who visited Masanchi -- one of the villages where clashes took place -- said few people were out walking on streets lined by smouldering houses as fire crews put out the remaining fires on Saturday.

Some residents could be seen gathering belongings from houses partly destroyed by fire as they prepared to leave the village, which is under the guard of police and security forces.

Majority-Muslim Kazakhstan's authoritarian leadership prides itself on guaranteeing inter-ethnic harmony in a country where the foreign ministry says "over 100 ethnic groups are living in peace." The Dungans are a Muslim people who live in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and northwestern China.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, February 09 2020. 16:54 IST