World Bulletin/News Desk
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Friday he believed a "terrorist act" caused the deaths of 14 border guards and a civilian at a border post at the frontier with China.
A senior border guard official said on Thursday the charred bodies of at least 12 Kazakh border guards and a local gamekeeper had been discovered at a torched post in southeastern Kazakhstan. The border guard service said on Friday that two more border guards had been found dead at the post.
"I consider this a terrorist act," Nazarbayev's official site www.akorda.kz quoted him as saying during a meeting with the heads of Kazakh security bodies.
He did not elaborate on who he thought might be responsible, or why he said it was a terrorist act.
"A soldiers' barrack and an officers' house were burnt down; the dead bodies were recovered when the debris was cleared. When such incidents occur in peaceful times, this demands the most thorough investigation," Nazarbayev said.
Fifteen guards are officially said to have been stationed at the post. The fate of the one missing serviceman is unknown.
"Central and local security bodies are doing whatever is needed to clarify all the circumstances of this case and detain the suspected criminals," Nazarbayev said.
Kazakhstan, a predominantly Muslim ex-Soviet nation of 16.7 million, shares a 1,530-km (960-mile) border with China, with which it has developed warm relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Last year Kazakhstan exported goods worth more than $16 billion to its neighbour last year, more than 18 percent of its total export revenues.
Nazarbayev is expected to visit China next week to take part in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security body which also includes Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asian neighbours Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
There has been no post-Soviet history of violence at the border since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, and the last time there were any major clashes on the frontier was in August 1969 when there was a brief but fierce clash between Soviet and Chinese troops.
Local news agencies said that the border post was reinforced during the summer months to guard mainly against the illegal gathering of rare medicinal plants that grow in the region.
Last Monday, May 28, was the annual Soviet-era holiday for border guards, an event still celebrated in former Soviet countries. The bodies were discovered on May 30.