Dozens of people have been killed as protests continue in Kazakhstan, including citizens and police officers.
According to local authorities, one officer was found beheaded.
The grim developments come as Kazakhstan witnesses the worst street unrest since gaining independence 30 years ago, in 1991.
The demonstrations in the vast former Soviet, Central Asian nation began during the weekend in Zhanaozen, a town in the oil-rich western Mangystau region, but have since spread across the country.
In the face of growing dissent, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked the government and declared a two-week state of emergency for the whole country. But the moves so far have failed to ease the unrest.
While initially triggered by rising fuel prices, the protests have morphed into anti-government riots, feeding off resentment over three decades of rule by ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Here are all the latest updates:
‘Authorities have hit back hard’
Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Georgia, a fellow former Soviet republic, says “internet restrictions” in Kazakhstan are making it difficult to determine exactly what is happening there.
“But we are able to build up a picture and that is that the authorities have hit back hard overnight and into today to retake control of the centre of Almaty … and to retake control of the airport, which it has been confirmed was overtaken by protesters yesterday,” Forestier-Walker said.
“We are also aware of gunfire on the streets and I have seen video, unconfirmed, of morgues full of bodies of young men, [who were] presumably protesters.”
Protesters, police killed in Almaty
Police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek says that demonstrators attempted to storm government buildings overnight in the country’s largest city, Almaty, and that “dozens of attackers were liquidated”.
Twelve law enforcement personnel were also killed in clashes in Almaty, local officials said. One officer was found beheaded.
Moscow-led alliance sends troops to Kazakhstan
A military alliance of former Soviet states says it has sent paratroopers into Kazakhstan as part of an international peacekeeping force to quell the unrest.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had appealed for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – a military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan – to intervene after blaming foreign-trained “terrorist” gangs for his country’s violent protests.
“Peacekeeping forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation were sent to the Republic of Kazakhstan for a limited time to stabilise and normalise the situation,” the CSTO secretariat said in a statement posted online by the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Explainer: What is behind the protests rocking Kazakhstan?
The chaos in tightly-controlled Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, was triggered by a sudden spike in the price of car fuel at the start of the year.
But the roots of the mass discontent run much deeper, with protesters venting fury over the entire political system.
For an in-depth explainer on what’s really driving the demonstrations, click here.
Airlines cancel flights to Almaty
Middle East carriers FlyDubai and Air Arabia have cancelled services to Almaty as unrest continues.
A FlyDubai spokesperson said the airline had cancelled its two return Dubai-Almaty services scheduled for Thursday due to the “situation on the ground”, with the route suspended until at least January 8. A return FlyDubai flight from Dubai to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nursultan, was due to operate, however.
The website for Air Arabia showed its return Sharjah-Almaty flights scheduled for Thursday as cancelled.
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