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News Update
29-11-04, 19:26
Opposition fears crack-down after Kazakh blast

By Reuters in Almaty, 29 November 2004 13:07

Blasts that rocked the headquarters of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Otan party were an attempt to destabilise Kazakhstan, the party said on Monday, shrugging off a police theory of an act of hooliganism.

The ruling Otan (Fatherland) also rushed to dispel opposition concerns the blasts might trigger a witch-hunt of political opponents.

Two bombs exploded on Sunday outside Otan’s headquarters in the oil-rich Central Asian state’s commercial hub, Almaty, lightly injured a passerby but causing little damage.

The attack shocked a nation which last saw political violence in 1986 when the replacement of its veteran communist leader sparked street clashes between youths and Soviet troops.

”These blasts did not only target Otan. This provocation also targeted our stability, the stability of our state,” Otan deputy chairman Amangeldy Yermegiyayev told a news conference.

”Probably certain persons and groups do not like the dynamic development of our state,” he said. He declined to elaborate.

Almaty police chief Moldiyar Orazaliyev said earlier Nazarbayev had taken personal control of the bomb investigation.

He dismissed the idea the blasts were a “terrorist act” by Muslim radicals, although Kazakh secret police said this month they had broken up a network of Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda.

WITCH-HUNT LOOMING?

Some opposition activists voiced fears at Otan’s news conference that the blasts might trigger a clampdown on dissent, after some Otan parliamentarians suggested the opposition might be behind the bombs, eager to trigger a political crisis.

Yermegiyayev disagreed: “Important events are taking place in the world, particularly in Ukraine, but we do not link to them what happened in our country.”

Nazarbayev, in power since 1989 and chairman of his party, wields huge power and brooks little dissent in his nation of 15 million.

The former steelworker has won acclaim for rapid market reforms and attracted massive foreign investment to the energy and metals sectors.

But his rule has also been marked by attacks on independent mass media, and several opposition leaders have been jailed.

In September, Otan and its allies won all but one seat in parliamentary elections that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said were marred by intimidation.

The lone opposition deputy has since resigned in protest at what he called a rigged and falsified poll.

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