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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs