Updated: 3:54 a.m. ET Sept. 23, 2005

Bomb explosion wounds 46 in Belarus

4 seriously injured in blast at outdoor cafe; motive unknown

MINSK, Belarus - Forty-six people were wounded, four of them seriously, in a bomb explosion at an outdoor cafe in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Friday.

Alexei Murzhankov, a duty officer at the Vitebsk city department of the ministry, said that 25 of those injured in the Thursday night blast had been hospitalized, four of whom were in intensive care.

Murzhankov said the explosion occurred just outside the Eridan, a city cafe. A Vitebsk resident, Anton Stepanishchev, said the cafe was a temporary, partially open-air structure of the sort often set up to attract customers in the summer. As well as offering food and drink, the cafe has a dance floor.

The explosive, which was stuffed with bits of metal, was buried in a flower-bed outside the cafe, the Vitebsk regional police said.

The composition of the device, combined with the fact that the cafe was crowded with customers, accounts for the large number of injured but apparently minimal damage to the tent itself, which was shown intact on television.

Investigators did not discuss the motives under consideration, but the location suggests that a business dispute could not be ruled out as a cause.

It was the second such explosion in the town, 186 miles northeast of the capital, Minsk, in nine days.

In the previous incident, a homemade bomb -- a beer can stuffed with nails and metal scraps -- was planted on Sept. 14 in a flower-bed near a bus stop close to a theater. That blast wounded two people.

Prosecutors opened an investigation on charges of hooliganism in last week's incident. This time, police characterized the incident as a "an attempt to kill someone through means that are dangerous to society," the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.