By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News
A 22-year-old Israeli was killed by stray bullets during violent protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Friday, a statement by Israel’s Foreign Affairs read.
Levan Kogeashvili had been living in Kazakhstan for the past few years. A student of business management, Kogeashvili was married and just recently became a father.
One of Kogeashvili’s friends told Israel’s Channel 12 that he was leaving his home for work when he was shot and killed. “He was walking to his car when a burst of bullets hit him,” he said, adding that he was not involved in the civil unrest that has gripped the country for days. Two of Kogeashvili’s friends who were with him were reportedly injured.
On Thursday, Israel issued a travel warning for Kazakhstan, asking Israelis to avoid non-essential travel to the country.
Having immigrated to Israel in the 1990s, Kogeashvili’s parents live in the coastal city of Ashdod. They are currently working on bringing their son’s body for burial in Israel.
Deputy Mayor of Ashdod Eli Necht said the city is doing everything it can to help the family. “They’re in shock,” he told Channel 12.
“Their boy didn’t attend the protests and was not part of the security forces, he had nothing to do with anything,” he said.
Necht added that because Kazakh authorities had blocked internet access in the country, communicating with the Israeli consulate during the early stages of the incident was difficult.
The unrest began in the country’s far west as protests against a sharp rise in prices for liquefied petroleum gas that is widely used as vehicle fuel. The protests spread to the country’s largest city, Almaty, where demonstrators seized and burned government buildings.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has used harsh rhetoric against those participating in the protests, calling them “a band of international terrorists” and authorizing security forces to use lethal force against them.
Authorities say security forces killed 26 demonstrators and that 18 law-enforcement officers died. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.
The protests in the Central Asian nation were the most widespread since Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.