ALMATY -- Police arrested anti-government protesters in Kazakhstan Thursday (May 9) ahead of next month's presidential elections, amid numerous reports of popular news and social media sites being taken offline.
AFP correspondents witnessed six arrests in an Almaty square after calls for a protest at a World War II Victory Day parade.
Former senate speaker and diplomat Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is considered all but certain to win the election. Long-time ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev chose Tokayev to be interim president when he suddenly resigned in March.
Nazarbayev faced various security challenges in recent years, including how to deal with the radicalisation of hundreds of Kazakhs who joined the "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq. At least 360 Kazakhs were still in Syria as of January, Taraz political scientist Ruslan Seksenbayev told Caravanserai at the time.
On Thursday, internet users complained that many independent local news websites were inaccessible, as well as the Kazakh service of Radio Free Europe. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram were also offline.
Residents of Almaty complained that mobile internet services were not working.