Minsk metro blast leaves several dead

A blast tore through a metro station near Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's main office in the capital Minsk on Monday, killing at least five and wounding several commuters, according to reports.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which hit the Oktyabrskaya metro station in the city centre.

The exit to the metro leads directly to both Mr Lukashenko's main working office and his residence. Ambulances and fire engines were seen racing to the scene.

Witnesses told AFP that dark plumes of smoke rose from the station tunnel, with dozens of people walking out in a daze, covered in pieces plaster and their clothing tattered.

At least one person had both legs maimed by the blast, a witness said.

Belarus' state news agency Belta said several people had been killed in the blast, without giving further details.

The Interfax news agency separately said that at least 30 people were carried out on stretchers from the station.

The RIA Novosti news agency reported that at least 10 people were hurt in the blast, adding that the ceiling of the underground station may be in danger of collapse.

The explosion comes amid growing political tensions inside Belarus linked to the trials of opposition members who rallied against Mr Lukashenko's controversial re-election on December 19.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated through central Minsk on election night after Mr Lukashenko's overwhelming victory was announced, with police wielding truncheons moving in against the protesters and arresting hundreds.

Several presidential candidates remain in KGB jails, facing prison terms of up to 15 years for organising riots and mass disorders.

Dozens of other opposition leaders face shorter jail terms in trials that began this year.

The arrests have added to the Lukashenko regime's growing international isolation, with both the European Union and the United States announcing travel bans and economic sanctions against some Belarussian state companies.

However despite the political unrest, Belarus is normally considered a safe country and has never been touched by large-scale militant attacks such as those carried out by Islamist militants in Moscow.

On March 29, 2010, 40 people were killed and dozens wounded by two female suicide bombers during the morning rush hour on the Moscow metro.

In January this year, 37 people were killed in a suicide blast at Moscow's Domodedovo airport.

The man who claimed those attacks, Russia's most wanted Islamist rebel Doku Umarov, whom the Russian authorities hoped to have killed in an air strike last month, is alive and preparing reprisals, according to an audiotape.

A man purporting to be Umarov telephoned the North Caucasus service of Radio Free Europe, saying that he was "absolutely healthy" in a message in the Chechen language, the radio said on its website last week.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Partners: Social Network