Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday fired the governor and police chief of a region where deadly clashes killed 10 and wounded more than a hundred others, replacing them with senior officials.
Dozens of homes were burned down and at least 47 people were arrested during the conflict that broke out Friday in the southern Jambyl region.
The clashes are widely believed to have pitted Kazakhs, the majority ethnic group, against minority Dungans, a Muslim people. The violence prompted thousands to flee across the nearby border with Kyrgyzstan.
The president dismissed Jambyl regional governor Askar Myrzakhmetov in a decree.
His replacement Berdibek Saparbayev has served as deputy prime minister and was earlier appointed head of a government commission investigating the violence.
The appointment of such a senior figure shows how seriously the oil-rich Central Asian state is treating the rare outbreak of violence that damages its reputation for stability.
Tokayev also replaced the region’s police chief with a former deputy interior minister.
Nearly 140 people were treated for injuries and more than 30 remained in hospital on Monday.
The conflict escalated from what the interior ministry described as a “group fight” involving no more than 70 people. Police said they had contained the violence by Saturday evening.
Saparbayev said at a briefing that around 4,000 people had returned to Kazakhstan from ex-Soviet neighbour Kyrgyzstan on Monday after escaping across the border during the weekend.
He noted 25 criminal cases had been opened in connection with the violence, with charges ranging from murder to making calls for mass disorder.
Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leadership prides itself on inter-ethnic harmony in a country where the foreign ministry says “over 100 ethnic groups are living in peace.”
The Dungans are a Muslim people who live in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and northwestern China.
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