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Belarus arrests Minsk bombing 'perpetrator'

13 april 2011, 16:28
Belarus said Tuesday it has arrested a man suspecting of planting the bomb on the Minsk metro that killed 12 people as officials struggled to explain the worst attack in its post-Soviet history, AFP reports.

Authorities have speculated extremists or a lone psychopath may be behind the attack but have so far failed to offer conclusions two days after an attack that stunned a country completely unaccustomed to a strike on this scale.

Twelve people were killed and 200 wounded in the attack, which was caused by a bomb apparently set off by remote control placed in a bag at a metro station close to the headquarters of autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko.

Deputy prosecutor general Andrei Shved said police arrested two suspects including a man suspected of planting the bomb at the station. He did not make clear when they were arrested or if their arrest came after that of three men detained the day earlier.

"The first investigative actions are being carried out on these two people with lawyers. The first confessions have been obtained," he said, quoted by the Interfax-Zapad news agency.

"With a great deal of probability we can assume that one of the detained is the perpetrator," Shved added, pointing to video evidence from the Oktyabrskaya station of the Minsk metro where the bomb went off.

"On the video footage it is clearly visible how the suspect gets off a train at Oktyabrskaya, stands on the platform, leaves a bag behind on a bench and leaves, fiddling with something in his pocket."

"After that, the explosion went off."

The authorities the day earlier released a picture of a man the KGB said was of "non-Slavic appearance" and was a key suspect. But it was not clear if he was one of those arrested.

Belarus KGB chief Vadim Zaitsev denied speculation that the bomb appeared to have been an amateur operation, saying it contained a large amount of metallic objects aimed at causing destruction.

Zaitsev said three versions were being examined -- a bid to destabilise the country, a plot by extreme youth groups and an action by a lone psychopath.

A group of investigators from Israel also arrived in Minsk on Wednesday to assist Belarus. Experts from Russia are also providing help.

Lukashenko has told the KGB to "turn the country upside down" to solve the crime and refused to rule out that the attack the could have been a "present" from abroad.

The authorities declared Wednesday a day of mourning in Minsk, with state flags flying with black bands at half mast and all entertainment events in the capital cancelled until the end of the week.

The blast came amid rising political tensions in the country following Lukashenko's controversial re-election on December 19, which sparked a massive opposition protest and a brutal crackdown on government critics.

Belarus saw bomb blasts in 2005 in its western city of Vitebsk and in 2008 in Minsk. Both explosions, blamed on the nationalist fringe, wounded around 50 people but did not cause fatalities.

Shved said that the authorities were looking into whether those arrested were linked to the 2008 explosion.

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