Kazakhstan’s former security chief arrested for treason amid violent protests

The former head of Kazakhstan’s domestic intelligence agency has been detained on suspicion of high treason after he was fired amid violent protests.

The National Security Committee, or KNB, said in a statement on Saturday its former chief Karim Masimov was arrested on Thursday after it launched an investigation into charges of high treason.

Karim Masimov is a close ally of Kazakhstan’s founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“On January 6 of this year the National Security Committee launched a pre-trial investigation into high treason,” it said.

“On the same day, on suspicion of committing this crime, former chairman of the KNB KK Masimov was detained and placed in a temporary detention centre, along with others.”

No details were given about what Masimov, a two-time ex-prime minister, was alleged to have done that would constitute an attempted government overthrow. KNB, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for counterintelligence, the border guards service and anti-terror activities.

Authorities say security forces killed 26 demonstrators in this week’s unrest and 18 law enforcement officers died. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said on Saturday.

Public buildings across Kazakhstan were ransacked and torched in the worst violence experienced by the former Soviet republic in 30 years of independence. Russia sent troops to help quell protests.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty on Friday after days of violence. The Russian-backed Tokayev said he ordered his troops “to shoot to kill” to put down a countrywide uprising.