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Constitutional order mostly restored in Kazakhstan, says president

Kazakh security officers speak to a gathering of people in the wake of violent protests over sharp rise in fuel prices. (Photo by TASS)

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev says constitutional order has mostly been restored in the Central Asian nation as security forces appeared in control of the streets in the country’s main city of Almaty.

"An anti-terrorist operation has been launched. The forces of law and order are working hard. Constitutional order has largely been restored in all regions of the country," Tokayev declared in a Friday statement.

His statement came as pockets of protests and unrest continued in the country, a major oil producer and the world's top producer of uranium.

"Local authorities are in control of the situation. But terrorists are still using weapons and damaging the property of citizens,” Tokayev said. “Therefore, counter-terrorist actions should be continued until the militants are completely eliminated."

The country’s interior ministry announced that 26 "armed criminals" had been "liquidated" and more than 3,000 detained. He said 18 police and national guard officers had been killed since the riots began early this week over a hike in fuel prices.

Dozens of people have been killed in clashes on the streets, with rioters torching and ransacking public buildings in several cities in the worst violence in Kazakhstan’s 30 years of independence following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union.

Tokayev's administration said the identity of the detained militants is being established, and the possibility of them belonging to an extremist organization is being investigated.

He was due to address the nation later on Friday, with the administration calling on residents in Almaty to limit their traveling around the city while the "search for the remaining hiding bandits is under way".

Tokayev said in a televised address on Wednesday that he would act as tough as possible on those who broke the law by staging “massive attacks” on security forces during the protests.

He assured Kazakhs that he has no plans to step down after he sacked his cabinet earlier in the day. “As president, I am obliged to protect the safety and peace of our citizens, to worry about the integrity of Kazakhstan,” the president said.

The unrest started on Sunday, after the government almost doubled fuel prices.

Russia has reacted to the ongoing unrest in Kazakhstan, warning against any outside interference in the internal affairs of the Central Asian nation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kazakhstan could solve its own problems and it was important that no one interfered from the outside.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was closely monitoring the situation in its southern neighbor.

"We hope for the earliest possible normalization of the situation in the country, with which Russia is linked by relations of strategic partnership and alliance through fraternal, human contacts."

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