Kazakh policemen escort a detained suspect in armed attack of police station in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 18 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/STRINGER

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev called a series of shootings that killed three policemen and one civilian on Monday a "terrorist attack."

"I express my condolences to the victims' loved ones, who should receive psychological and material support," Nazarbayev was quoted by his press service as saying.

A gunman in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, shot the policemen and a civilian on Monday in a series of attacks that put the city on terrorism alert, according to local authorities.

The man, believed to be a 27-year-old who has since been detained, shot an officer with a firearm while breaking into a police station to steal an assault rifle, the Interior Ministry said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

The man then shot two officers who tried to chase after him, as well as the driver of a car he attempted to steal, according to the report. Earlier media reports said there were multiple gunmen.

The suspect has been identified as a native of Kazakhstan's southern Kyzylordinsky district who is believed to have murdered a woman last week.

The government of Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, like other Central Asian nations, fears the potential rise of Islamist terrorism but has also downplayed the risk.

The Islamic State extremist group has threatened to commit attacks in the former Soviet republic, according to video messages released by the group in recent weeks.

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