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Belarus President Says Suspects Confess To Subway Blast -- And Old Attacks


Flowers are laid near photos of victims of the April 11 blast at the Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) station.
MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said two suspects confessed to staging a deadly explosion at a subway station in Minsk.

His statement came as the capital held a day of mourning and hours after prosecutors announced the detention of two Belarusian men in connection with the blast, which killed 12 people and wounded some 200 others on April 11.

"The crime was solved at 5:00 this morning," Lukashenka said. "It took our police and security services only one day to carry out a brilliant operation and detain the perpetrators without any noise or a single shot at 2100 [9:00 p.m.] last night. [The suspects] testified at 5:00 this morning."

Prosecutors had said earlier that the two men came from the same town and knew each other. One, they said, was caught on surveillance camera leaving a bag in the Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) subway station shortly before the explosion.

Composite images released by Belarusian police on April 12 of suspects in the subway bombing

Lukashenka said the pair had confessed to carrying out a previous attack at an open-air concert in Minsk in 2008 and another blast at a cafe in Vitebsk in 2005. Both incidents injured dozens but caused no casualties.

From Who To Why?

He said the investigation would now focus on clarifying the bombers' motives.

The Belarusian leader, who has ruled his country with an iron first since 1994, also ordered security services to interrogate "political actors" -- a veiled reference to the opposition -- in connection with the subway blast.

Using his characteristic tough language, Lukashenka said they might know who ordered the attack and would be questioned "regardless of democracy, and the cries and wailing of pathetic Westerners."

His statement comes amid fears that the blast would trigger a new crackdown on dissent following the brutal repression of postelection protests in December. Several opposition figures have already been questioned about their whereabouts on April 11.

The bomb, packed with metal nails and bolts, was apparently placed under a platform bench and detonated by remote control. It ripped through the station as commuters milled around a train during the evening rush hour.

WATCH: Video images of the downtown station in the immediate aftermath of the April 11 blast:

Blast Rocks Minsk Metro Station
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0:00 0:01:51 0:00

The KGB security services said several motives for the attack were being studied, including an attempt to sow panic and destabilize Belarus, an attack carried out by "radical extremist youth organizations," or a "contract" killing.

No Easy Answers

The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement condemning what it describes as the "apparent terrorist attack."

Reports quoted a diplomat as saying the word "apparent" was included in the statement to suggest uncertainty among Security Council members over who may have been behind the attack.

Lukashenka, who has been isolated by the West over his autocratic rule, has said he did not rule out the involvement of foreign forces.

The Kastrychnitskaya station lies just 100 meters from his headquarters.

Although the bombing bore similarities to recent attacks in Russia, Belarus is not home to an Islamic insurgency. As they honored the memory of the dead, Minsk residents were at a loss to explain the devastating attack.

"Nothing really comes to my mind," one resident said. "Some say there's a Chechen trail, but we never had any problems with them. Some say it was the opposition, but would it really go that far? I simply don't know."

Another man offered that "Chechens like the Belarusians, they wouldn't bomb us. I think it's the opposition. They were unable to instigate a revolt on the square, so now they've now turned to terror."

"It's definitely a crazy person who may have been upset by something and acted inadequately," another man said. "There is no international terrorism here."

The first victims of the bombings were being buried today in Minsk.

All 12 victims have now been identified. They include five women and seven men, aged between 17 and 47.

written by Claire Bigg; based on reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service and additional agency reports
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