Islamist Kills 7, Self in Kazakhstan

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - A radical Islamist killed seven people, including five law enforcement officers, in a rampage Saturday in Kazakhstan's southern city of Taraz, authorities said. The suspect blew himself up as officers moved in to arrest him.

The shootout and bombing is the latest in a recent string of Islamist-related attacks in Kazakhstan and will deepen worries of a mounting terrorist threat in the former Soviet Central Asian nation.

Kazakhstan has been largely untroubled by Islamist-related violence, but the past few months have seen an anomalous spike in attacks that authorities have tied to radical organizations.

The prosecutor general's office said in a statement that the killings began in the morning when the suspect opened fire and killed two security service officers who were tailing him.

Authorities said the attacker, identified only as Kariyev, later attacked a weapons store, killing the owner and a customer. He then commandeered a vehicle and shot dead two police officers.

"As an attempt was made to disarm Kariyev, he blew himself up, which resulted in the death of police captain Baitasov, who led the platoon engaged in the capture," the statement said.

Kazakhstan, a vast oil-rich and mainly Muslim nation of 17 million people along Russia's southern border, has been all but untouched by Islamist violence since gaining independence in 1991, although the killing of two police officers in western Kazakhstan in June was linked by authorities to indigenous terrorist groups.

That prompted security operations in which two more police officers and nine suspected terrorists were killed.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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