Belarus President Announces Chief Ally's Sacking Over Bomb Attack

MINSK, Belarus (AFP)--Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday said he was dismissing long time ally Viktor Sheiman from his post in charge of the national security council due to a bomb attack last week.

"I don't think you should remain in this post after the incident. You above all are guilty," Lukashenko said in televised comments, referring to the bomb blast at an outdoor concert on Friday that injured up to 50 people.

"You've been responsible to the president not for one year, but already 10 years now you have been organizing such events. You didn't do anything," Lukashenko said at a meeting to assess the investigation.

Sheiman, who held the post of state secretary to the security council, has been at Lukashenko's side in a variety of posts since the Belarussian leader came to power in 1994.

The European Union and U.S. have said Sheiman was probably directly involved in the 1999-2000 disappearances of four people - two senior politicians, a businessman and a journalist - and he has been subject to an E.U. travel ban.

Lukashenko on Monday also criticized the emergency and security services in relation to Friday's incident, in which a home-made bomb stuffed with nuts and bolts ripped through a crowd of revellers during a concert marking Belarussian Independence Day on July 3.

"The relevant services did not ensure people's security, although in our country that should have been an easy thing.

"I'm warning you I need concrete scenarios, concrete results. Three days have passed. I was promised first results within two days and want to hear them," Lukashenko said.

Friday's bomb blast took place as Belarus prepares for a Sept. 28 parliamentary election for which opposition forces have vowed protests against Lukashenko's autocratic rule.

Belarus has been described as Europe's "last dictatorship" by the U.S.

Most opposition leaders don't recognize the July 3 holiday as Belarus' real independence day, citing alternative dates such as the country's first proclamation of independence in 1918, on March 25 that year.

Activists have called on Lukashenko not to use Friday's blast as as pretext for cracking down on the opposition.