Lukashenko promises 'no crackdown' on opposition after bombing

Author : DPA

Minsk - Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko Saturday promised he would not use a recent bomb blast as a pretext to crack down on government opponents, the Interfax news agency reported. "We have no plan to tighten down the screws in Belarus," Lukashenko told reporters in Minsk. "The investigation (into the bombing) will be in accordance with the law."

Lukashenko was commenting on government intentions in the wake of Friday's bombing at a rock concert that sprayed steel nuts and bolts into a holiday crowd in downtown Minsk and left more than 50 injured.

Within hours of the bombing, government critics accused Lukashenko of planning to use the blast to intensify repression of his opponents.

Police were still looking for suspects Saturday. A Russian forensics team was assisting Belarusian police in the search, and the US also offered assistance, Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko said the aim of the attack - leaving three seriously injured and amputating fingers of one victim - had been to "sow panic" rather than be a "personal attack against the president."

The former collective farm boss had been present at the concert at the time of the blast but his reviewing stand was hundreds of metres from the explosion, and Lukashenko was not injured.

Lukashenko Saturday claimed he remained in the vicinity of the explosion, contrary to Friday reports by witnesses who said he left immediately under heavy security after the blast.