February 10, 2020 / 7:39 AM / 17 days ago

Governor resigns, police chief sacked after Kazakh clashes

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday accepted the resignation of the governor of the southern Zhambyl province, where 10 people were killed in ethnic clashes last week, his office said.

Tokayev named Berdibek Saparbayev, previously a deputy prime minister, new governor in place of Askar Myrzakhmetov. The president also sacked a deputy governor and the province’s police chief.

The incident, triggered by an argument over a right of way, led to a brawl between ethnic Kazakhs and Dungans, a minority group with Chinese roots, followed by an overnight rampage in which an angry crowd torched dozens of buildings and cars.

Although the violence ended by Saturday morning, the atmosphere remained tense on Monday with some Kazakhs expressing support for those who attacked the Dungans and accuse officials of being biased in favor of the minority - although many others urged reconciliation.

Tokayev had earlier blamed the violence on “provocateurs” who used an act of hooliganism to instigate larger-scale violence and said the local authorities would be punished for failing to prevent it.

Dozens of people were wounded in the conflict and many Dungans fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan the following day. Police have detained more than 40 people at the site and closed large markets in Almaty, the biggest city in the former Soviet republic, to prevent further clashes.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan

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