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Suspects 'confess over subway bomb'

Two suspects have confessed over a fatal bomb attack on the subway system in the capital of Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko has said.

In a televised statement, Mr Lukashenko said the pair admitted the attack in Minsk on Monday in which 12 people were killed and some 200 others injured.

The bomb exploded as people were getting off trains during the evening rush-hour in the city's main subway station.

Mr Lukashenko said the authorities still did not know who ordered the bombing. The authoritarian president then said he has asked the prosecutor general to interrogate leading opposition figures in connection with the blast "regardless of democracy, and cries and wailing of foreign sufferers".

Mr Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, had already launched a massive crackdown on opposition members in Belarus after tens of thousands protested the presidential election in December. Mr Lukashenko was declared the overwhelming winner of that vote, which international observers described as rigged.

He has run the former Soviet nation of 10 million with an iron fist for nearly 17 years, retaining Soviet-style controls over the economy and cracking down on opposition and independent media. Hundreds of dissidents were arrested after the presidential vote, including seven of the nine presidential candidates.

Opposition leaders pressing for democratic reforms had already voiced fears that authorities could use the subway bombing as a new excuse to persecute them.

CCTV footage showed one of the two suspects leaving a bag in the Oktyabrskaya subway station in central Minsk and feeling around for something in his pocket shortly before the explosion, deputy prosecutor general Andrey Shved said.

Authorities have said the bomb was radio-controlled. Belarus also observed a day of mourning for the victims on Wednesday.

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