ALMATY: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday that constitutional order had mostly been restored in the Central Asian country hit by unrest this week, his office quoted him as saying in a statement.

The Kazakh interior ministry said in a separate statement that 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated” and more than 3,000 of them detained, while 18 police and national guard servicemen had been killed since the start of the protests.

“An anti-terrorist operation has been launched. The forces of law and order are working hard. The constitutional order has largely been restored in all regions of the country,” Tokayev said.

“Local authorities are in control of the situation. But terrorists are still using weapons and damaging the property of citizens. Therefore, counter-terrorist actions should be continued until the militants are completely eliminated,” he added.

Russia on Thursday sent in paratroopers to help put down the countrywide uprising in one of Moscow’s closest former Soviet allies as part of the Russia-led CSTO security bloc.

On Friday morning, Reuters correspondents saw armoured personnel carriers and military servicemen in the main square of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, where soldiers fired at protesters a day before.

A few hundred metres away, Reuters correspondents saw a dead body in a heavily damaged civilian car.

In another part of the city, they saw a ransacked store that used to sell ammunition and military vehicles and about 100 people in military uniforms at another square in Almaty.

Tokayev will address the nation on Friday, his administration said, asking people in Almaty to limit their travelling around the city while the “search for the remaining hiding bandits is underway.”

The violence has been unprecedented in a state ruled firmly since Soviet times by leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had held on to the reins despite stepping down three years ago as president.

The uprising, which began as protests against a New Year’s Day fuel price hike swelled on Wednesday, when protesters chanting slogans against Nazarbayev stormed and torched public buildings in Almaty and other cities. Protesters accused Nazarbayev’s family and allies of amassing vast wealth while the nation of 19 million remained poor.

Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, Tokayev earlier this week blamed the unrest on foreign-trained terrorists.

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