Kazakh Authorities Blame Fugitive Banker for Foiled Terror Plot

Posted March 28th, 2012 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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Authorities in Kazakhstan say they thwarted a plot to carry out terrorist bombings planned for last Saturday in the commercial capital, Almaty.

The general prosecutor's office Wednesday gave few details on how it uncovered the plot. It blames associates of fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Investigators say the alleged terrorists planned to set off bombs in city parks and government buildings. Prosecutors say the plot was aimed at scaring the population, creating chaos and panic, and destabilizing the socio-political situation.

Ablyazov is a fierce opponent of Kazakhstan's long-time president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The former banker fled to London in 2009 to avoid embezzlement charges. Last month in London, he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of court. He fled before imprisonment, and his whereabouts are unknown.

The general prosecutor's office has linked Alexander Pavlov, a security guard for Ablyazov, to the plot — along with Muratbek Ketebayev, a leading figure in the unregistered Alga opposition party.

The government says the men were promised $25,000 to orchestrate the blasts.

In another development, the trial has begun for about 40 people suspected of involvement in last year's deadly clashes in the western oil town of Zhanaozen.

Prosecutors on Wednesday began reading out charges to 37 suspects in the clashes between striking workers and security forces. At least 14 people died in the unrest.

The violence erupted in December on the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union. Prosecutors have charged several law enforcement officers with using excessive force during the incident.

Terrorism, violence and public protests are rare in Kazakhstan, despite Mr. Nazarbayev's autocratic rule and intolerance for the opposition.

Many Kazakhs enjoy a higher standard of living than most other Central Asian neighbors because of the country's oil wealth.