Former anti-terror chief arrested over Kazakhstan protests

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MOSCOW — The former head of Kazakhstan’s counterintelligence and anti-terror agency has been arrested on charges of attempted government overthrow in the wake of violent protests that the president has blamed on foreign-backed terrorists.

The arrest of Karim Masimov was announced Saturday by the National Security Committee, which Kasimov headed until he was removed this week by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Authorities say security forces killed 26 demonstrators in this week’s unrest and that 18 law-enforcement officers died. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The protests in the Central Asian nation were the most widespread since Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The unrest began in the country’s far west as protests against a sharp rise in prices for liquefied petroleum gas that is widely used as vehicle fuel, and spread to the country’s largest city, Almaty, where demonstrators seized and burned government buildings.

At Tokayev’s request, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led military alliance of six former Soviet states, authorized sending about 2,500 mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan as peacekeepers. (AP)

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