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Station blast 'was terror attack'

A rush-hour explosion which tore through an underground station in Belarus' capital Minsk, killing 12 people and wounding 126, was a terrorist act, an official said.

President Alexander Lukashenko did not say what caused Monday's explosion at Oktyabrskaya station, but suggested outside forces could be behind it.

"I do not rule out that this gift could have been brought from outside," Mr Lukashenko said. The authoritarian leader, under strong pressure from the West over his suppression of the opposition, has frequently alleged outside forces seek to destabilise his regime. Deputy prosecutor-general Andrei Shved said the blast was a terrorist act, but did not give further details.

The domestic security agency, which still goes under the Soviet-era name KGB, said it had identified a suspected bomber and was searching for him, but gave no further details.

Several witnesses said the explosion hit as passengers were stepping off a train at about 6pm. Oktyabrskaya station, where Minsk's two underground lines intersect, was crowded with passengers at the end of the working day.

The station is within 100 yards of the presidential administration building and the Palace of the Republic, a concert hall often used for government ceremonies.

Mr Lukashenko visited the site about two hours after the blast and left without comment. He later ordered that the country's feared police to "call in all forces and turn everything inside-out" to investigate the blast.

About five hours after the blast, health minister Vasily Zharko said 11 people were killed and 126 people wounded, 22 of them severely.

Political tensions have been rising in Belarus since December, when a massive demonstration against a disputed presidential election sparked a harsh crackdown by police in which more than 700 people were arrested, including seven presidential candidates.

The opposition Belarusian Popular Front issued a statement on Monday night calling on authoriites "to refrain from using this incident as grounds for a new wave of political represssion", Interfax news agency reported.


From Belfast Telegraph