Unprecedented riots in Kazakhstan's oil-producing western region have claimed at least 12 lives and left dozens injured.

Eleven people died and almost 90 were wounded in the town of Zhanaozen, near the Caspian Sea, said the office of Kazakhstan's Prosecutor General. Unofficial reports quoted by the independent Kplus TV channel, said more than 70 were killed and about 500 injured.

Unrest flared up in Zhanaozen, a town of 80,000, on Friday when a group of people wearing oil workers' uniform stormed an outdoor stage and smashed sound equipment set up to mark the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence. The rioters then went on to set on fire the city hall and the local office of the KBM oil company. Troops rushed to the city opened fire and dispersed the rioters.

Hundreds of KBM workers were fired in May after they had struck for months demanding higher pay. However, Kazakh prosecutors said the riots were started by a group of “hooligans” dressed in oil workers uniform.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared a 20-day state of emergency and a curfew in Zhanaozen.

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