29 Sep 2005 16:28:10 GMT

"Liberation army" says carried out Belarus blasts

Source: Reuters

MINSK, Sept 29 (Reuters) - A little-known group that has called for the removal of the Belarussian president said on Thursday it was behind two bomb blasts this month that injured dozens of people in a provincial town.

A statement from the organisation calling itself the "Belarussian National Liberation Army", which first made its existence known earlier this year, said the explosions were a part of its political campaign.

"We received information that somone claimed responsibility for the explosions, but it is impossible to say whether this claim is true or serious," Interior Ministry spokesman Vitaly Grinkevich said.

The group has called for the removal of President Alexander Lukashenko, accused in the West of systematically undermining human rights.

Investigators say the explosions this month at a cafe in Vitebsk, near the Russian border, were linked to criminal gangs. More than 40 were hurt in the second blast.

Little is known of the group. An organisation describing itself as the "Belarussian Liberation Army" said in the late 1990s that it had staged a blast that struck a gas pipeline.

Infighting between competing criminal gangs has plagued many ex-Soviet states, with shootouts and explosions relatively common in many cities.