11 dead in Belarus metro attack

By Moscow correspondent Norman Hermant

At least 11 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in an explosion in the underground metro system in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The powerful explosion ripped through the busiest metro station in Minsk in the middle of the evening peak hour commute.

Witnesses say the explosion occurred as passengers were stepping off a train at a station where two underground railway lines intersect.

One said part of the station's ceiling collapsed after the blast.

TV footage showed dozens of people sitting stunned on the station's marble floor, their clothes in tatters, and faces splattered with blood.

Hundreds of people scrambled through thick smoke to reach the surface, many with serious injuries.

One witness said most of the victims were in a big crater.

Officials in Belarus say the blast was a terrorist attack.

President Alexander Lukashenko has described the blast as a deliberate act aimed at undermining the country's peace and stability.

Political tensions are high in Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko launched a crackdown on the opposition after his disputed re-election victory last December.

But Belarus has never experienced a deadly terrorist attack since it became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


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