Kazakhstan shaken by riots after heartthrob's concert

Pop singer Kairat Nurtas

ALMATY, Kazakhstan - Investigators in Kazakhstan were on Monday probing how a glitzy concert at an upscale shopping centre by a wildly popular heartthrob Kazakh singer over the weekend led to riots that left dozens wounded.

More than 160 people were arrested after the disorder, which broke out late on Saturday night at the concert by pop singer Kairat Nurtas at the Prime Plaza shopping centre in the country's largest city Almaty, the local city hall said in a statement.

Investigators said they had launched criminal probes into possible hooliganism and also neglect of duties by the organisers of the event.

Local media reports said that the disorder broke out when Nurtas ended his concert prematurely after fans broke through a police cordon to get closer to him on the stage.

They then jumped onto the stage and started throwing stones and bottles in apparent frustration, the reports said.

Some 90 people were injured in the scuffles that followed the concert and nine of them were hospitalised, a spokesperson for the regional health authority told AFP.

The shopping centre had organised the appearance of Nurtas, who has a huge following in Kazakhstan for his sentimental love ballads, to mark the end of a long-running karaoke competition.

They blamed the disturbances squarely on the singer himself, accusing him of letting down his fans by only singing his way through one song.

"He took the decision to leave the stage after clearly getting scared of his own fans. This aroused dissatisfaction among the audience and led to the mass riots."

"If Kairat Nurtas had been professional and had continued the concert then everything would have been fine," it added.

The singer is due to give a news conference himself later in Almaty to give his position.

The rioting was among some of the worst disturbances seen in the former Kazakh capital city in the last years.

Ruled by strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev since before the fall of the USSR, Kazakhstan enjoys a reputation as the most stable state in Central Asia.


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