Dozens of protesters and 12 police officers died during the surge of violent protests taking place in Kazakhstan. Government buildings were stormed, the presidential residence was set ablaze, and an officer was found beheaded as the situation escalated, officials said Thursday.
Over 350 protesters have been injured and dozens more "liquidated," a term used to describe the killing of individuals thought to be extremists. Airports in Almaty – the nation's largest city where most of the protests have occurred – are shut down and internet service was disrupted across the country for the second day on Thursday.
As protesters take a stand against the authoritarian rule exercised over the Central Asian nation, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is blaming "terrorist bands" for the unrest, and has asked a Russian-led military alliance for assistance.
The alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said Thursday that it would dispatch peacekeeper troops at the request of the president. Russia and Kazakstan share a roughly 4,700 mile border.
The protests groups are reportedly comprised of tens of thousands of Kazakhs, some carrying clubs and shields through the center of the city. The unrest began days ago over the near-doubling of fuel prices in the country, though the size, intensity, and rapid spread of the protests suggest they are reflective of a much deeper sort of grievance among the people.
Tokayev has announced a two-week state of emergency in the country, which includes overnight curfews and a ban on religious services – an issue for the country's significant Orthodox Christian population who will celebrate Christmas on Friday.