“He was at first held at a precinct, then they told us he was in the Internal Affairs department,” Renat told The Associated Press. “Since Jan. 6, we’ve been here and we don’t know whether he’s alive or not.”

Authorities have refused to allow relatives or lawyers to see those in custody, giving little information about them, according to human rights activists.

The demonstrations began Jan. 2 in the western part of Kazakhstan over a sharp rise in fuel prices and spread throughout the country, apparently reflecting wider discontent with the government, which declared a state of emergency for the whole country and asked a Russia-led military alliance to send in troops to help restore order.

Another 1,678 people were arrested in the past 24 hours in Almaty, the largest city that was hit hardest by the turmoil, and more than 300 criminal investigations have been opened. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed the unrest on foreign-backed “terrorists,” but did not provide any evidence, and had given shoot-to-kill orders to security forces to quell the unrest.

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