Surviving Kazakh border guard reappears

2012-06-05 16:14

Astana - The mystery around the deaths of 14 Kazakh guards killed in a fire on the Chinese border deepened on Tuesday when the sole survivor reportedly emerged from a cave carrying his pistol and in deep trauma.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has described the deaths last week of the 14 border guards and a hunter as an "act of terror", but details on the tragedy have remained shrouded in uncertainty.

There had been considerable interest in the fate of the 15th guard, who was believed to have been on duty at the border post high in the Tien Shan Mountains and who had so far been unaccounted for.
The man on Monday returned to the burned-out border post as investigators were carrying out their work, the Kazakhstan news agency reported, quoting a local official source.

'Psychologically damaged'

"He had his pistol. Judging by appearances he was psychologically damaged and in a stupor," said the source, adding that the guard had been hiding in a cave since the incident.

The corpses of the guards were found amid the burned-out wreckage of the border post, while the body of the hunter was found at his hunting lodge nearby, reportedly with a bullet to the head.
The cause of the fire remains unclear.

Nazarbayev, who declared Tuesday a national day of mourning for the tragedy, had last week clearly implied that he believed the deaths were caused by foul play.

"I believe this to have been an act of terror. Likely it happened as a result of internal conflicts," Nazarbayev told security chiefs on Friday.

He did not give further details, but said: "When such incidents take place in peacetime, it requires very thorough investigation."

Kazakhstan, long seen as one of central Asia's most stable states, has seen an unusual upsurge in unrest blamed on Islamist militants in recent years. However there is no evidence so far to suggest they are linked to the incident.