Fatal explosion hits Belarus subway

An explosion has torn through a key subway station in the Belarusian capital of Minsk during evening rush hour, killing at least 11 people.

A reporter at the scene saw badly injured people being carried out of the Oktyabrskaya station.

Witnesses said the blast came as passengers were stepping off a train at about 6pm local time on Monday. The station, where Minsk's two subway lines intersect, was crowded with transferring passengers at the end of the working day.

The station is within 100 metres of the government's main building, the Palace of the Republic, as well as the residence of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

It is not yet known if the blast was an accident or a terrorist attack, but an official from the presidential administration confirmed there had been fatalities.

One witness, Alexei Kiklevich, said at least part of the station's ceiling collapsed after the explosion.

Igor Tumash, 52, said he was getting off a train when "there was a large flash, an explosion and heavy smoke. I fell on my knees and crawled... bodies were piled on each other".

Political tension in Belarus has been rising since December when a massive demonstration against a disputed presidential election sparked a harsh crackdown by police in which more than 700 people were arrested, including seven presidential candidates.

Mr Lukashenko, who was declared the overwhelming winner of the disputed December 19 election, has run Belarus with an iron fist since 1994.

However, Belarus's beleaguered opposition has been largely peaceful for years, with only a few clashes with police.


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