Mass murder verdict in president-led inquiry

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A BORDER guard has been jailed for life for murdering 14 fellow soldiers and a herder in a mass killing that shocked Kazakhstan and prompted the president of the Central Asian nation to take the personal control of the investigation.

The bodies were discovered with gunshot wounds in May at a burnt down border post near the mountainous frontier with China. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the oil-rich nation with an iron hand for more than two decades, called the murder “a terrorist act” and stepped in to take charge of the inquiry. The only surviving guard from the border post, Vladislav Chelakh, was found at a herders’ winter camp. A stolen laptop, a pistol and money from the dead guards were found in his hideaway.

Yesterday, he was found guilty of murder, theft, desertion and destroying military property.

Many in the country of 17 million initially blamed the killings on Islamist militants or poachers. Chelakh’s case was heard at a military garrison in Taldykorgan, south-eastern Kazakhstan.

Before the trial, he confessed but in the run-up to the trial, he retracted his testimony and tried to kill himself in prison.