Kazakhstan: Taraz city attack kills seven

image captionResidents say the attacks have caused alarm in the normally quiet city of Taraz

A suspected Islamist militant has killed seven people in the city of Taraz in southern Kazakhstan - one of the worst attacks the country has seen.

The man shot dead four members of the security forces and two civilians before blowing himself up, killing another police officer, say officials.

The attack is the latest of several this year.

It is likely to raise concerns that the militant threat is growing in Kazakhstan.

The killings began when the attacker shot dead two members of the security forces who were following him, say prosecutors.

He then raided a gun shop, killing an employee and a passer-by, before hijacking a car and shooting dead two police officers who were chasing him, said a spokesman for the prosecutor- general's office.

As the police tried to disarm the man, he detonated explosives killing himself and one officer.

At least three other police were injured during the rampage.

The prosecutor's office described the 34-year old attacker as "a follower of jihadism," saying he was named Kariyev.

A criminal investigation has been ordered into the killings.

"We never thought that this kind of thing could happen here," a resident of Taraz told the Reuters news agency.

Recent attacks

The assault is highly unusual for Kazakhstan, but follows a handful of bomb attacks in recent months.

Two bombs were detonated in the western city of Atyrau in October, but only the bomber was killed.

A previously unknown Islamist militant group, Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate), said it was responsible for that attack.

Two people were injured in May when a suicide bomber attacked a regional security building in the northern city of Aktobe.

At the time that attack was blamed on an organised crime group.

Until this year, oil-rich Kazakhstan had not experienced any of the militant activity seen in some of its Central Asia neighbours.

However, following recent activity blamed on militants, the government introduced a new law to try to tighten its control over radical religious groups.

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