Dozens hurt in Belarus explosion

At least 40 people have been injured in Belarus after a home-made bomb exploded during a concert in the capital, Minsk.

The event was taking place in the centre of the city to mark the ex-Soviet nation's independence day.

President Alexander Lukashenko, whose rule has been denounced as autocratic by the US and the European Union, was attending the concert.

An investigation is under way. There is no clear motive but police say it may have been an act of "hooliganism".

The explosion happened just after midnight local time, as thousands of people were gathered for a concert at a war memorial in the capital.

Initial inquiry

In the aftermath of the blast President Lukashenko reacted by going over to inspect the scene, his spokesman told Reuters news agency.

"The president was not far. He reached the site of the explosion within several minutes. He did not stay long so as not to interfere with the work of the emergency services," said Pavel Legkiy.

He said: "The type of the explosive has now been established. According to preliminary data, this was a home-made explosive device."

Screws and bolts have been found at the scene, officials said.

Correspondents say that attacks of this kind are unprecedented in Belarus, which is tightly controlled by President Lukashenko.

Belarus became independent when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

But the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says the president has retained many of the characteristics of Soviet rule.

The West has strongly criticised President Lukashenko for his treatment of political opponents.

His supporters credit him with protecting Belarus from the instability, which many other former Soviet republics suffered in the 1990s.