Death toll in Belarus subway blast reaches 12

Death toll in Belarus subway blast reaches 12

Belarus' domestic security agency, which still goes under its Soviet-era name KGB, said that had identified the likely perpetrator of yesterday's explosion at a busy downtown subway station and was searching for him. It didn't elaborate.

Interior Minister Anatoly Kuleshov said police had created composite pictures of two male suspects using testimony from witnesses. He said the bomb apparently was radio-controlled.

The Interior Ministry said the bomb placed under a bench on the Oktyabrskaya station exploded as people were coming off the trains at an evening peak hour. The Oktyabrskaya station is within 100 meters of the presidential administration building and the Palace of the Republic, a concert hall often used for government ceremonies.

Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with officials late yesterday that foreign forces could be behind the explosion, but he didn't elaborate. Authorities said that 204 people have sought medical help and 157 of them have been hospitalized, including 22 in critical condition.

Viktor Sirenko, the chief doctor of the Minsk Emergency Hospital, said that many victims had lost arms or legs. People streamed to the site of explosion to lay flowers as police tightened security at all subway stations.

"I went through that hell, I saw that pile of disfigured bodies," 37-year old Nina Rusetskaya said as she lit a candle at the explosion site. "I rode a car in the back of the train and only survived by miracle." Lukashenko, in power for nearly 17 years and dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, was declared the overwhelming winner of December's presidential election which international observers said was rigged. He has run the former Soviet nation of 10 million with an iron fist, retaining Soviet-style controls over the economy and cracking down on opposition and independent media.

Lukashenko took his 6-year-old son to visit the site of the explosion about two hours after the blast. He later ordered the country's feared security forces to "turn everything inside-out" to find the culprits. Alexander Milinkevich, a prominent opposition leader, voiced fears that the explosion could serve as a pretext for a further crackdown on dissent.

"Forces both inside and outside the country, which are interested in the destabilization of the situation in Belarus, could profit from that terror attack," Milinkevich said in a statement today. "These forces want to provoke even harsher political repressions."