President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President Nursultan NazarbayevReuters

At least two policemen were shot dead and several others were injured after gunmen opened fire in several areas in the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan on Monday, while authorities launched an anti-terrorist operation.

"A religious radical and probably a follower of non-traditional Islam" was opening fire in intervals in central Almaty, a police source was quoted by Reuters as saying, citing the Interfax news agency.

"We saw a man with a rifle, he passed by," a shop worker was quoted by the agency as saying. Witnesses heard gunshots in several areas in the country's financial capital.

Meanwhile, the police cordoned off several streets including one near the KNB security police local office.

The police detained at least one attacker, while many police officers sustained injuries, a security source was quoted by the agency as saying, citing RIA news agency.

Last month, the KNB had detained several members of a group that had planned "terrorist acts using improvised explosive devices" after the town of Aktobe was attacked.

Around two dozen men, who were called sympathisers of the Islamic State group by the authorities, claimed the lives of seven people when they attacked gun stores and a national guard facility. Security forces retaliated and killed 18 attackers on the day of the incident and during the subsequent manhunt.

The oil-rich country of Kazakhstan has been firmly led by 76-year-old President Nursultan Nazarbayev since 1989. But several violent attacks in protest against the proposed land reforms have hit the country in recent times.