Kazakh opposition accuses secret police of killing leader

Opposition parties on Tuesday accused Kazakhstan's secret police of responsibility for the shooting of an opposition leader whose bound body was found along with those of his bodyguard and driver in mountains near Almaty.

Altynbek Sarsenbayev, a leader of the Nagyz Ak Zhol party, was the second prominent opposition politician to be killed in this oil-rich ex-Soviet republic in the past three months.

Bolat Abilov, another Nagyz Ak Zhol chairman who identified Sarsenbayev's body, said that the three dead men were found in a mountain gorge near Almaty with their hands tied behind their backs and with gunshot wounds to the back and head.

"This is clearly a political murder. There cannot be any other theories," Abilov told reporters. "This is the work of the special services."

Police said Monday that the investigation was being overseen by Interior Minister Baurzhan Mukhamedjanov. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is on vacation, ordered a thorough investigation.

The U.S. Embassy also called on Kazakh authorities "to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation." In a statement, the embassy said it was "greatly saddened" by the death of Sarsenbayev and said he was "well and favorably known to the U.S. government."

Sarsenbayev, 42, was also a former government minister and ambassador to Russia. He was seen as one of the strongest politicians in the opposition camp.

His murder comes three months after the mysterious death of an outspoken presidential critic, Zamanabek Nurkadilov, a former regional governor and emergencies minister who was found dead in his Almaty house with three gunshot wounds just weeks before the December presidential elections.

Authorities ruled the death a suicide, reports AP.

O.Ch.