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Belarus Makes More Arrests Over Minsk Subway Attack

14.04.2011 14:17

Belarusian authorities say they have arrested two more people in connection with the April 11 deadly bombing attack on a subway station in Minsk.

The fresh arrests bring to five the number of people detained over the blast, which killed 12 people and injured some 200 others.

"We have arrested five people on suspicion of carrying out this crime," Deputy Prosecutor-General Andrei Shved told a news conference in Minsk. "Two of them were placed in detention -- the actual perpetrator of the terrorist act and an individual who assisted him."

The announcement came as funerals were held for eight of the victims. The other four were buried on April 13.

According to prosecutors, the two main suspects came from the same town and knew each other.

Shved said all five detainees were Belarusian citizens under the age of 30 without any previous convictions. He refused to release their identities or speculate on their motives.

Surveillance Footage

He showed reporters footage shot by surveillance cameras inside the Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) station shortly before the rush-hour explosion.

The footage shows a man carrying a bulky sports bag that prosecutors say was packed with explosives and placed under a platform bench. The suspect is then believed to have detonated the bomb by remote control.

Shved said investigators had already found the place where the bomb was manufactured, a site outside Minsk, and seized more than 1,000 pieces of evidence.

The motives for the attack, the first deadly bombing to hit Belarus, remain unclear.

The KGB security services have described the perpetrator as a "sick person."

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced on April 13 that the main suspect and his accomplice have confessed to staging two other bombing attacks, one at an open-air concert in Minsk in 2008 and another at a cafe in Vitebsk in 2005. Both explosions injured dozens but caused no casualties.

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

He also ordered the KGB to question "political actors" -- a terms he sometimes uses to refer to the opposition -- in connection with the blast, fueling fears the attack heralds another crackdown on dissidents.

A Pretext To Clamp Down

Hundreds of people were detained in December during demonstrations to protest the reelection of Lukashenka in a vote denounced by international monitors as flawed.

Several opposition figures have been sentenced to prison terms or remain in detention pending trial.

Dissident-minded Belarusians worry that authorities will also use the blast as a pretext to tighten control of the Internet, one of the few platforms for free speech in the heavily policed ex-Soviet nation.

Prosecutor-General Grigory Vasilevich said on April 13 that authorities needed to "bring order" to a number of Internet portals that carried news about the bombing.

compiled from agency reports


Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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