Violence between striking workers and the authorities in western Kazakhstan spread over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 14, the country's general prosecutor announced on Sunday.
The clashes began Friday in the city of Zhanaozen, where police officers opened fire on striking oil workers who had occupied a city square for six months demanding better wages. The authorities said that 13 people were killed and 86 were wounded. Relatives and some witnesses have said that the death toll is much higher.
On Saturday, several hundred protesters blocked railroad tracks in Shetpe, a town north of Zhanaozen, to protest the treatment of the other activists. The police opened fire, killing one person and wounding about a dozen more.
Kazakh authorities said that the police had made protracted efforts to persuade the protesters to withdraw from the railroad tracks but that "50 hooligans" refused to do so. Only after a crowd pelted the police with stones and Molotov cocktails and set a locomotive and the municipal Christmas tree on fire did the police begin to fire in the air and at demonstrators' legs, the prosecutor's office said. Five police officers were injured, the statement said.
An Associated Press reporter who arrived in Shetpe on Sunday said the town was flooded with police officers, some of whom tried to restrict the movement of visiting journalists. Another group of oil workers held a protest on Sunday in front of the municipal administration building of Aktau, the regional capital, unfurling a long banner that read "Do not shoot at your people."
The violence in Zhanaozen, an oil town near the Caspian Sea, broke out just as President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev was leading a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence.
The striking workers had been allowed to occupy the square until last week, when Zhanaozen municipal authorities began preparations for a festival there. Video said to have been taken at the square last week showed angry men tearing at decorations and a Christmas tree, perhaps because they saw the event as a ploy to dislodge them.
On Saturday, Mr. Nazarbayev declared a nearly three-week state of emergency in Zhanaozen, and journalists found that roads, Internet links and cellphone access to the region had been blocked. On Sunday, Kazakh forces detained four Russian journalists for several hours as they tried to gather information in the city.
In a briefing on Sunday, a spokesman for the general prosecutor's office, Nurdaulet Suindikov, said that 19 checkpoints had been set up around the city and that 70 people had been detained on suspicion of taking part in the events on Friday. He said that "special mobile groups" had been deployed to investigate the violence. The father of one victim, Mr. Suindikov said, testified that his son had been killed not by the police but by "hooligan elements on the square."
"Rumors about mass bloodletting have no basis," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published by the government. "They are clearly meant as disinformation and being distributed with a provocative goal."
On Sunday, Mr. Suindikov said, the police had uncovered a plot to seize a municipal court building, as well as instances of looting and attacks on the police.
Mihra Rittmann, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Central Asia, said workers in nearby towns like Shetpe were extremely anxious because they had been unable to communicate with their relatives in Zhanaozen.
"It is a very tense and live situation, and I think there is still a risk of outbreaks of violence," she said. While governments have the right to control information flow during a state of emergency, she added, "it needs to be proportionate. The extent to which the government has put limits on free flow of information leaves people in Zhanaozen extremely vulnerable."
Aluash Ongarova, an opposition leader in Aktau, told Stan TV, a Kazakh television channel that posts its reports online, that she had been monitoring various state-controlled television channels and that their reports were all distorted.
One news broadcast "said it was the pranks of hooligans," Ms. Ongarova said. "They said five people died, but that's not true. My sister-in-law works at the hospital and she told me that she personally closed the eyes of 23 people."