18 Dec 2011

Kazakh leader orders curfew after oil city riots

8:27 am on 18 December 2011

The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has declared a 20-day state of emergency and curfew in the western oil city of Zhanaozen, a day after at least 11 people were killed in violent clashes there.

The presidential decree bans strikes and public protests, restricts freedom of movement around Zhanaozen and limits access to and from the city.

Wounded victims filled hospitals in Zhanaozen and many oil workers stayed at home, fearing for their safety a day after violent clashes between riot police and crowds in a city where thousands of sacked oil workers have been protesting for months.

The head of a local trade union said many wounded civilians and policemen had been brought by car from overflowing hospitals in Zhanaozen, a city of 90,000 around 150 km east of the Caspian Sea, to the regional centre of Aktau.

Thousands of employees of state-controlled oil company KazMunaiGas Exploration Production began a strike in May to demand better pay and conditions.

It sacked 989 workers and says output will fall 8.5% short of target this year.

KazMunaiGas EP has said 2500 people were on strike at the height of the dispute.

Representatives of the striking workers have put the maximum number at almost 16,000.