Belarus opposition activists released after blast

MINSK, July 18 (Reuters) - Four detained opposition activists in ex-Soviet Belarus were released on Friday without charge after being questioned about a bomb explosion at a concert attended by President Alexander Lukashenko.

More than 50 people were wounded in the July 4 blast at an event in Minsk marking Belarus's national holiday. Officials describe the explosion as "hooliganism", playing down any political dimension, and Lukashenko has vowed not to launch a crackdown ahead of a parliamentary election next month.

The opposition says about a dozen activists were detained.

"Four people detained on July 7-8 were released today, including my husband Miroslav Lazovsky," said Nina Shidlovskaya, deputy head of the World Union of Belarussians, a group representing ethnic Belarussians world-wide.

"Of course, no charges were pressed against any of them. They were only questioned twice over all this time. Ten days passed and they were released."

The four once belonged to the White Legion, a nationalist paramilitary group founded in the 1990s and now disbanded in the country wedged between Russia and three European Union states.

Some opposition officials say the detentions could compromise the parliamentary election and have suggested they may boycott the poll. Western leaders accuse the authorities of violating fundamental rights, and Lukashenko hopes the election will show Belarus adheres to democratic principles.

Several activists were released in recent days and officials from various groups said four remained in detention. Suspects may be held for 10 days without charge under Belarussian law.

Officials and police have said nothing about any roundup.

An interior ministry spokesman said only that no charges had been laid. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Police this week launched house-to-house questioning in apartment blocks, with officers asking residents about their whereabouts at the time of the explosion, where they performed their military service and whether they saw active combat duty.

Within days of the explosion, Lukashenko dismissed the head of the influential security council and his own chief of staff.

On Tuesday, he appointed Yuri Zhadobin, the head of the security service, still known by its Soviet-era KGB initials, as chairman of the security council. (Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Charles Dick)