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Armed Youths Try to Shut Down Industrial, Public Utility Facilities in Kazakhstan

June 24, 1989|From Reuters

MOSCOW — A new wave of unrest has hit Soviet Central Asia where fighting between rival Muslim sects claimed at least 99 lives earlier this month, Pravda said Friday.

The Communist Party daily said groups of armed youths had tried to attack industrial plants and called for sabotage to halt public services in the town of Novy Uzen, a city of 56,000 in Kazakhstan, where four people have died in clashes.

One group carrying firearms and metal bars had been detained after trying to seize control of a gas pumping station, the newspaper said.

Others had tried to sabotage an aqueduct, electrical lines and a refinery in the oil and gas producing town near the Caspian Sea.

"Yesterday (Thursday) only one large bakery and food shops were open. Despite the efforts of party and local government officials, workers are still in a feverish mood. Again only one quarter of workers and officials were at their jobs."

Pravda quoted a lone bus driver at a depot, T. Angdaliyev, as saying groups had threatened workers if they turned up for work.

"There's no one here because they're all afraid," he told Pravda. "I've been working all this time. But yesterday they came and told me--if I go out today, they'll come and burn down my house and car."

The clashes, sparked by a brawl last week outside a discotheque, followed 10 days of rioting in neighboring Uzbekistan in which 99 were killed earlier this month.

The latest outbreak, the fifth in the Soviet Union's southern republics in the past year, is regarded as a serious stumbling block to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's perestroika reform program.

The disturbances were sparked by residents' complaints that workers from outside the area, mainly from the Caucasus region, enjoyed higher living standards.

The earlier disturbances in Uzbekistan pitted Uzbeks against the Meskhetian Turkish minority in the worst ethnic violence in the Soviet Union in decades.

Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov last week accused local officials of abetting rioters during the trouble in Uzbekistan.

The newspaper Selskaya Zhizn said Friday the situation in Novy Uzen "followed a familiar script" to the unrest in Uzbekistan, with a minor altercation among youths unleashing clashes with nationalist undertones.

Tass news agency said a government commission investigating the disturbances in Novy Uzen had ordered the closure of a number of cooperative shops where "abuses" had been observed. A common complaint during the riots was that prices charged by cooperatives, which often sell goods unavailable in state shops, were too high.

Tass also reported that Islam A. Karimov, a regional party chief, had been elected Communist Party leader in Uzbekistan to replace Rafik N. Nishanov.

Nearly 17,000 were evacuated from Uzbekistan at the height of the troubles.

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