Kazakhstan’s health ministry said Sunday that 164 people have been killed in protests that have rocked the country over the past week.
The figures reported on the State news channel Khabar-24 are a significant rise from previous tallies. It is not clear if the deaths refer only to civilians or if law-enforcement deaths are included.
Kazakh authorities said earlier Sunday that 16 police or national guard had been killed. Authorities previously gave the civilian death toll as 26.
Most of the deaths — 103 — were in Almaty, the country’s largest city, where demonstrators seized government buildings and set some afire, according to the ministry.
The country’s ombudswoman for children’s rights said that three of those killed were minors, including a 4-year-old girl.
The ministry earlier reported more than 2,200 people sought treatment for injuries from the protests, and the Interior Ministry said about 1,300 security officers were injured.
The office of Kazakhstan’s president said that about 5,800 people were detained by police during the protests that developed into violence last week and prompted a Russia-led military alliance to send troops to the country.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s office said Sunday that order has stabilized in the country and that authorities have regained control of administrative buildings that were occupied by protesters, some of which were set on fire.
The Russian TV station Mir-24 said sporadic gunfire was heard in Almaty on Sunday but it was unclear whether they were warning shots by law enforcement. Tokayev on Friday said he had authorized police and the military to shoot to kill to restore order.
Almaty’s airport, which had been taken by protesters last week, remained closed but was expected to resume operating on Monday.
Protests over a sharp rise in prices of LPG fuel began in the country’s west on Jan. 2 and spread throughout the country, apparently reflecting discontent extending beyond the fuel prices.
The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since independence fro m the Soviet Union in 1991. Any figures aspiring to oppose the government have either been repressed, sidelined, or co-opted and financial hardship is widespread despite Kazakhstan’s enormous reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and minerals.
Tokayev contends the demonstrations were ignited by “terrorists” with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organization. The statement from his office on Sunday said the detentions included “a sizable number of foreign nationals,” but gave no details.
It was unclear how many of those detained remained in custody on Sunday.