MOSCOW (AP) – The former head of Kazakhstan’s counterintelligence and counter-terrorism agency has been arrested on charges of an alleged attempt to overthrow the government following violent protests that the country’s president blamed on foreign-backed terrorists.
Karim Masimov’s arrest was announced on Saturday by the National Security Committee, a body he himself chaired until the president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, sacked him this week.
According to authorities, 26 protesters were killed by security forces in this week’s riots, and 18 officers were killed. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
These protests are the most widespread in the Central Asian nation since it gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
The riots began in the extreme west of the country with protests against the sharp increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas, widely used as fuel for vehicles, and spread to the most important city, Almaty, where protesters seized and burned government buildings.