14 Dead in Kazakhstan Protests

Police fire on oil workers demanding better pay
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2011 2:46 PM CST

(Newser) – Hundreds of people today are protesting a brutal police crackdown in western Kazakhstan that left at least 13 dead and 86 wounded, the New York Times reports. The violence began Friday when police fired on oil workers who had been striking for 6 months for better pay. Officials ordered them out of a public square to make room for the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence. When they refused to budge, police opened fire.

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Police killed another person and injured about a dozen others on Saturday when hundreds of protesters obstructed rail lines in Shetpe, a town north of Zhanaozen. Human rights workers and activists say the death toll could be much higher. Officials have defended the use of live ammunition, the AP reports, and declared a state of emergency in Zhanaozen, blocking Internet links and cellphone access. “It is a very tense and live situation," says a human rights activist. Sound like Kazakhstan's Arab Spring? Tunisia's revolution was, after all, rooted in the labor movement. (Read more Kazakhstan stories.)

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