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Belarus Mourns As Authorities Identify A 'Non-Slavic' Suspect In Subway Blast

The site of the explosion at the Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) subway station in Minsk, where a powerful bomb packed with metal balls ripped through the evening rush-hour crowd.
The site of the explosion at the Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) subway station in Minsk, where a powerful bomb packed with metal balls ripped through the evening rush-hour crowd.
By RFE/RL
An official day of mourning is being held in Belarus for the victims of the Minsk subway bombing that killed at least 12 people and left more than 150 others hospitalized with injuries.

The observance comes one day after Belarus's KGB security service said it had identified a young man of non-Slavic appearance as a main suspect in the April 11 tragedy.

KGB chief Vadzim Zaytsau told reporters the suspect is "27 years old and well built" and "dressed in a brown coat and a woolen hat."

Local media released a police composite sketch of the man drawn showing him unshaven and wearing a hat, but it was not immediately clear if he was suspected of being the perpetrator of the attack.

Zaytsau also said three individuals were in detention but the suspect whose picture has been released is still on the run.

A powerful bomb packed with metal fragments and with a force equivalent to 5 to 7 kilograms of TNT ripped  through Minsk's central Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) station on April 11 during the evening rush hour -- a rare act of indiscriminate violence in the tightly controlled country.

The device was reportedly hidden under a platform bench and exploded as a train entered the station. Interior Minister Anatol Kulyashou said it had probably been detonated by remote control.

More than 200 victims remain hospitalized with injuries, 26 of them in serious condition. (see also: From The Clothing Of The Dead, The Rings Of Unanswered Phones)

Authorities have not elaborated on the possible perpetrators.

Although the bombing bore similarities to recent attacks in Russia, Belarus is not home to an Islamic insurgency and has not been involved in U.S.-led military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Lukashenka: 'Gift From Abroad'

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka inspects the site of the explosion.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, vowed to turn the country "inside-out" to hunt down the attackers.

"Men, you see the challenge is thrown down to us and we have to understand -- it is a very serious challenge," he told an emergency meeting late on April 11. "We have to give an adequate answer. And this answer has to be found."

Lukashenka called the blast an attempt to destabilize the country. The Kastrychnitskaya station lies just 100 meters from his headquarters.

He linked the blast to a previous unsolved explosion at an open air concert in 2008 that wounded about 50 people, saying the two incidents could be "links in a single chain."

Lukashenka, who has been isolated by the West over his authoritarian rule and his brutal crackdown on postelection protests in December, said the latest explosion could be "a gift from abroad."

Condolences and messages of support nonetheless flowed from Western officials.

"I sent my condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones or had injuries in what's happened in Belarus and we are continuing to monitor that situation, too," EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said today in Luxembourg.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also extended its condolences. The organization was forced to shut down its office in Minsk after declaring that the December 19 election that authorities said gave Lukashenka a landslide victory was flawed.

In Belarus, some worry that Lukashenka will take advantage of the explosion to further tighten control on opposition forces.

Political analyst Yury Chavusau notes that the 2008 explosion, as well as a previous blast at a cafe in Vitebsk in 2005, "were accompanied by sweeping, massive arrests of opposition figures. So we can assume that the response to this terror attack and the investigation process will be similar: massive and irrational."

  • Belarusian TV shows a smoke-filled area near the blast site.
  • Medics surround the body of a victim.
  • People help an injured man.
  • Medical workers assist a victim.
  • The site of the explosion in the Minsk subway.
  • An injured passenger is evacuated.
  • A badly injured man is led away for medical assistance.
  • The body of a victim is seen on the ground near the entrance to the subway station.
  • Medics lift a victim of the blast into an ambulance.
  • President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (center) inspects the site of the explosion.


Shock, Rumors Spread

The blast has sparked fears of further attacks.

"We are all in shock," Minsk resident Natalya told Reuters. "Nobody imagined that it could happen in Minsk -- anywhere else but not in Minsk."

The subway has been reopened, but Olga, a student in the capital, said commuters are jittery.

"No one is safe from this. I was travelling by subway just now and I could see how nervous people were, they looking around all the time," she said. "There were no sleepy faces around this morning. It really affected us."

Security at stations and airports has been stepped up, and police today were carrying out spot checks on roads.

A woman leaves flowers near the entrance to the station in Minsk on April 12.
Rumors of two other bombings, one at another subway station and one at a bus terminal, quickly spread through Minsk today. The Emergency Situations Ministry, however, denied the rumors.

Meanwhile, shocked residents continued to stream to the site of explosion to lay flowers and light candles in memory of the dead.

Belarus will hold an official day of mourning on April 13.

with agency reports
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eric d from: Idaho Falls Idaho
April 12, 2011 19:27
Asking Lukashenko who's behind this horrible tragedy is like asking Vladimir Putin who's really behind the Moscow Subway Bombings, the Beslan Hostage Crisis, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis, the Moscow Apartment Bombings etc. etc. In other words, it's a futile execrcise in disinformation & propaganda. In Belarus, as in Russia, the KGB (the FSB?) is so inextricably implicated in whatever "terrorist attacks' take place it's difficult to tell the "terrorists" from the secret police. (See murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya's exposes of the Chechen War & the Moscow Thetaer Crisis & murdered former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko's whistle-blowing account of the Moscow Aprtment Bombings for examples.) Lukashenka's under pressure after the crackdown on the political opposition following the latest rigged election. So it's in Lukashenka's interests to blow up this latest "terrorist incident" into another excuse for a crackdown. But whoever wants to know who's really behind this terrible tragedy will just have to wait for another Politkovskaya or Litvinenko to expose the secret workings of the Lukashenko regime & its KGB thugs. Because if anybody in Belarus speaks out about it, they'll end up behind bars. (Or worse...).
In Response

by: Johann from: USA
April 13, 2011 21:07
Belarus isn't involved in any crackdown on British supported, Muslim terrorists like Russia is. Belarus has only allowed Qaddafi, to keep his Dollars and Gold in Belorussian banks ( Banks in Belarus are safer than bankrupt western banks, that have been saved by taxpayers)
Belarus has sent KGB and mercenaries to support Qaddafi in Libya.
So Belarus is indirectly fighting Osama bin Laden, by helping his enemy to cling to power in Libya. So Lukashenko is maby our friend in fighting Muslim Imperialism.
In Response

by: Ed Franks (PhD Economist) from: Pasadena, California, USA
April 14, 2011 09:03
Eric: Perfect presentation. I was going to write what you wrote, but you did it better. These guys are trouble: Luka, Shootin' Putin, and his sidekick Mini-Med. O-man must not allow US to be distracted by world's troubles from keeping close eye on Commonwealth of "Intimidated" States. Thanks.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
April 12, 2011 20:14
Ingushetia said it would build two hidroelectric plants.
Third Force terrorist attacks - Russia's army invaded,
government replaced by Gauliters, installed by Russia.

Beslan bottled some Georgian wine and repared school,
Osetia government not excited invade Georgia.
Terrorist attak - Russia's army invaded, government
replaced by Russia installed Gauliters -
Georgian Osetia invaded.

Ukraine and Moldova tried create beter CIS - Russia
expanding into Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova - almost
Gauliters in Ukraine and Moldova, pro-Russian opposition
In Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, energy squize and
economic subversions...

Than Ferghana - Third Force terrorist attak - Russia
moving into Central Asia...

Than a croocked move, plossible deny-abillity -
terrorist bomb in Russia...

Now Third Force back in business again -
Russia's economic pressure on Beloruss,
than terrorist attack...

If you find a "turban" of Halifat from "13-th Warrior" or a Russian huliganic "fura" - Look for incignia "made in Russia"...

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix AZ
April 13, 2011 01:33
Lukashenka won a very convinving first election as President of Belarus. They have maintained their status as a responsible member of the international community despite continually being drawn into controversies not of their own making. The election did not meet up to international standards but things are going a lot better than in Iran or North Korea.

by: eric d from: Idaho Falls ID
April 13, 2011 22:25
The Belarussian elections were denounced by international observers & led to massive protests in Belarus. The Belarussian KGB crushed the opposition protests & jailed the 5 or opposition candidates, including Nekrasov (sp.?) & Sannikov. Another Belarussian presidential canmdidate is in exile in (I believe) the Czech Republic. I apologize I don't have my facts straight, but I'm sure not convinced by anything the Belraussian KGB & Lukashenko say. For further info from Belrus, I'd suggest Charter 97 (charter97.org) which posts in Belarussin, Russian, & English, for international readers.

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