Kazakhstan said Thursday it had prevented a coup attempt by supporters of an exiled opposition figure as it arrested seven people ahead of a presidential election this weekend.
On Sunday, Kazakhstan will hold a snap presidential vote expected to cement incumbent Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's grip on power, months after deadly unrest shook the Central Asian country and left more than 230 people dead.
The National Security Committee said a group of seven people planned to "organise riots and a coup and proclaim a provisional government," adding that the suspects "share the views of exiled opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov".
Ablyazov, a former energy minister and bank chairman, is a hugely controversial figure whom Kazakhstan has tried and sentenced in absentia for murder and embezzlement.
The France-based Ablyazov has vociferously encouraged protests through his social media channels.
The security service said the group was trying to organise large-scale riots and planning to attack administrative buildings and law enforcement offices with arms and projectiles.
Weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles, sawn-off shotguns, ammunition and materials for Molotov cocktails as well as walkie-talkies were confiscated, it said.
Tokayev, 69, became leader in 2019 and has stymied opposition and consolidated power by sidelining his authoritarian predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev after the January unrest.
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