Kazakh police find bodies in Ile-Alatau park

Entrance to the Ile-Alatau nature reserve Police cars are now surrounding the entrance to the Ile-Alatau nature reserve

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Kazakh police have launched a murder investigation after finding 11 bodies in a national park in the country's south-east.

The bodies, with multiple stab wounds, were discovered in the mountainous Ile-Alatau national park, near Almaty.

According to the interior ministry, the dead included a local park ranger, his partner and other park employees.

The killings are the second case of mass murder in Kazakhstan within the last two months.

While five of the victims have been identified, the identities of the other six are still unknown.

The interior ministry said a motive for the killings had not yet been established.

Stability shaken

The ranger's home, which had a safe with a substantial amount of money inside, had not been disturbed, the ministry said.

It added that six of the bodies had been found in or near his house.

Locator map

Five more bodies were found in the charred remains of the home of another park ranger, 16 miles (25km) away which was also set on fire.

No arrests have yet been made. The attacks appear to have happened over the weekend.

Ile-Alatau national park lies on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan mountains on the border with Kyrgyzstan. It was created in the 1990s in an attempt to promote tourism in Kazakhstan.

In June the bodies of 14 Kazakh border guards and a civilian were found at a burnt-out border post on the Kazakh-China frontier.

A soldier who was serving there was later found and arrested. He is currently on trial where he has withdrawn an initial confession, saying he had been forced to sign an admission of guilt.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan is proud of its relative political stability in a region where Islamic extremism, drug-crime and corruption pose significant problems for many of its Central Asia neighbours.

The Kazakh government has succeeded in attracting major foreign investment.

But correspondents say that the recent incidents of murder together with several attacks blamed on Islamists - and high-profile police operations to contain them - have shaken a carefully cultivated image of stability.

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