News / Europe

Belarus Police Release Sketch of Subway Bombing Suspect

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, center, accompanied by his bodyguards, looks at the blast site inside the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, April 11, 2011
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, center, accompanied by his bodyguards, looks at the blast site inside the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, April 11, 2011
James Brooke

The toll from the Minsk subway bombing has risen to 12 dead and 204 injured as Belarus police and politicians struggled for answers.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko ordered his police to "turn everything inside out" as the Central-European nation struggled with its worst terrorist attack since winning independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago.

President Lukashenko ordered authorities to find those "seeking to benefit from exploding the calm and stability in the country."

According to Minsk police, a bomb with the explosive power of five kilograms of TNT exploded under a subway station bench at the peak of the Monday evening rush hour. Packed with nails, bolts, and ball bearings, the bomb cut through hundreds of commuters standing on the platform or on an arriving train. Twenty survivors are in critical condition. Several people lost arms or legs.

Unlike the bombs that hit transportation targets in Moscow during the past year, this bomb apparently was made of gunpowder and set off by remote control.  Saying there was no suicide bomber, police officials released the composite sketch of the prime suspect a well-built man in his late 20s.  Three men have been detained for questioning in the Belarus capital.

The bomb blew up in the metro’s lone transfer station, at the downtown intersection of the system’s two lines.  On Tuesday, one line resumed service.  The second is to reopen Wednesday.  Traffic jams formed around the city of 1.8 million people, the biggest city between Warsaw and Moscow.

The bomber chose a station about 100 meters from the presidential offices and across a street from the concert hall where Mr. Lukashenko was inaugurated in January, following elections widely criticized as fraudulent.

European Council on Foreign Relations Belarus expert Jana Kobzova watched President Lukashenko on TV Tuesday.  She said the massive bomb blew up the president’s long-cherished claim his authoritarian rule ensures peace and stability for the nation. "I have never seen him so nervous.  He did not actually blame anyone but the government and themselves," she said.

She said that after the metro bomb, Belarus now looks more and more like Russia, an authoritarian country marked by political violence.

Resident Yaroslav Romanchuk describes how the bomb was a big shock for normally quiet Minsk.  He says he walked past the bombed station a few minutes after the explosion. "When I was walking past that particular station, people could not even believe it was a terrorist act.  They could not even voice those words 'terrorist act.'  They talked about an explosion of the gas or some technical accident," he said.

Romanchuk, a former opposition candidate, predicted Belarus authorities would turn on the opposition.

On Tuesday, KGB officers raided the offices of the nation’s lone opposition newspaper, Nasha Niva, saying they were searching for photos and videos of the subway explosion.  Border police also carefully checked cars leaving Belarus for Russia.  In January, Belarus and Russia started a customs union and eased border controls.

President Lukashenko raised the possibility of foreign involvement in a televised lecture to KGB officials He said he does not rule out that this gift was a gift from abroad.  But he cautioned authorities need to also look in Belarus.

No group has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombing.

KGB head Vadim Zaytsev told reporters in Minsk the KGB is looking into three possible motives for the attack: the destabilization of the situation in the country, revenge by extremist organizations or the act of a mentally ill person.

But the day after the bombing, Kobzova agreed with independent analysts who discounted theories the bomb was the work of Russian Islamist terrorists or a radicalized faction of the nation’s anti-Lukashenko opposition. "It is difficult to imagine the opposition behind this attack.  Opposition is quite disorganized at the moment.  Many of their people are still in prison.  They have no reason whatsoever to do this," she said.

Kobzova also predicted the bomb would be used as a pretext for more pressure on the Belarus’ political opposition.

The leader of the Belarusian Party of the Left, Sergei Kalyakin, says he hopes the police will arrest the perpetrators without further cracking down on constitutional rights. He said the people that planned and carried out the bombing cannot be considered human beings.

That view was held by many Minsk residents who visited the station, lighting candles and placing flowers.  Wednesday has been declared an official day of mourning for the entire nation.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs