Last week in Central Asia, deadly ethnic clashes were reported in south Kazakhstan while an insider attack in Afghanistan resulted in three deaths, including two US soldiers. In the Caucasus, ceasefire violations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued at similar levels.
Violence broke out on 7 February between members of the Dungan Muslim ethnic group and Kazakh villagers in Masanchi village in Kazakhstan’s southern Zhambyl region. While reports vary on what exactly triggered the event, the consensus is that after a video was circulated on social media purportedly showing a fight between Dungans and police officers, several hundred people rioted in Masanchi as well as in some nearby villages, mostly populated by the Dungan community (Eurasianet, 10 February 2020). At least eight people were killed, two police officers were injured by gunfire, and tens of people were hospitalized. Multiple houses and shops belonging to Dungans were damaged. The incident also led to the temporary displacement of hundreds of Dungans to neighboring Kyrgyzstan (RFE/RL, 10 February 2020). Police squads were deployed to the area, and the government announced that the situation was under control following the arrest of 47 people.
These were the deadliest ethnic clashes reported in Kazakhstan in recent years. Some Kazakh academics and civil society activists indicate that the Dungan community may be targeted due to their relative prosperity, while others emphasize that Dungans have faced long-standing discrimination by Kazakhs (Al Jazeera, 10 February 2020). Ultimately, the riots reveal that minorities continue to experience discrimination in Kazakhstan. In response, the government has dismissed the regional police chief, the regional governor, and the district governor.
In Afghanistan, an Afghan soldier killed another Afghan serviceman and two US soldiers in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Multiple Afghan and US soldiers were also wounded (AP, 9 February 2020). No group has claimed responsibility for the incident and investigations are ongoing to determine the motive behind the attack. Many insider attacks have been reported over the 18 years of the Afghan War, mostly perpetrated by the Taliban. In the past 12 months, ACLED records nearly 40 infiltrator attacks resulting in more than 110 reported fatalities among Afghan military and police forces (this figure excludes fatalities solely reported by Taliban sources; for more information on how ACLED records fatalities in Afghanistan, please see this methodology brief). Insider attacks against NATO forces have become less frequent since their peak in 2012, when they accounted for 15% of all NATO fatalities (NPR, 9 February 2020). However, the recent incident marks the fourth infiltrator attack against US forces since July 2019, and comes at a delicate time as American and Taliban negotiators are pushing for a peace deal.
Meanwhile, ceasefire violations in Azerbaijan and Armenia continued at a similar level compared to the previous week. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence reported 13 armed engagements along the Armenia-Azerbaijan Line of Contact and 57 armed engagements along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact. On the other hand, the Defence Ministry of the disputed Artsakh Republic reported that Azerbaijan was responsible for over 190 ceasefire violations on the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact over the past week, while 1,200 shots were fired into Armenian positions by Azerbaijani forces “from various caliber ammunition” (Artsakh Republic Ministry of Defence, 8 February 2020).
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