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40 Hurt In Grenade Blast At Moldova Concert

Injured concertgoers are transported for medical attention after the October 14 explosion in Chisinau.
CHISINAU (Reuters) -- A grenade exploded at a crowded concert in the main square of the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, injuring at least 40 people.

State security officials said the grenade had apparently been left in a box and exploded at around 11.30 p.m. on October 14 as the Russian pop group Bravo brought the concert to its climax.

"According to our provisional investigation there is no doubt that a military grenade exploded," Interior Minister Viktor Katane told journalists, adding a formal criminal investigation had been opened.

"It was either an act of hooliganism or a terrorist act," he said.

Ex-Soviet Moldova, Europe's poorest country wedged between Ukraine and Romania, is in the grip of political instability after the powerful Communists were defeated in a July election by a pro-Western coalition committed to European integration.

Though a government has been formed, a president still has to be elected by parliament. An October 23 date has been set for this election but a stalemate between the coalition and the opposition Communists means this will not be a straightforward affair.

Witnesses said about 3,500 mainly young people were crowded onto Chisinau's Great National Assembly square for the concert that marked a regular annual festival celebrating the city's founding.

A doctor for the emergency services, Valery Andronik, said about 40 people were taken to hospital. Five of them were kept in for treatment for serious burns, though the explosion from the grenade had not been fierce.

Mikhail Bogov, 19, said the grenade exploded 50 meters from the stage as the group Bravo played.

"Three splinters went into my legs. Doctors said this was caused by a grenade or a homemade bomb. I don't remember how it happened. I came to when I was with the first aid doctors."

"I heard a loud bang and felt a fierce pain in my legs. Friends picked me up in their arms," said Mikhail Kerlig, aged 20.

City Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca said the group was told to continue to play for another half-hour to avoid panic. "Many people did not know what had happened," he said.