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Bomb blast at Belarus concert injures dozens

Latest update : 2008-07-04

A bomb packed with nuts and bolts injured dozens of people at a huge Independence Day outdoor concert in Minsk attended by the Belorussian president, Alexander Lukashenko. A second explosive device was later found in the capital.

A bomb packed with nuts and bolts injured dozens of people at a huge outdoor concert in Minsk attended by President Alexander Lukashenko, officials said Friday.
   
A large part of the Belarus capital remained cordoned off Friday but there was no immediate indication who was responsible for the attack at the Independence Day concert late Thursday.
   
"Around 40 people have been injured," Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov was quoted as saying by Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency. "There are different types of injuries, some of them heavy, but no one was killed."

A second explosive device was found in the Belarussian capital Minsk, where a bomb at a huge outdoor concert overnight injured dozens of revellers, Russia's Interfax news agency reported Friday.
  
"A second explosive device was found yesterday in Minsk. This will help in the investigation of yesterday's explosion in Minsk," Belarussian Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov was quoted as saying.


   There were tens of thousands of people at the concert in the centre of the capital. The injured were taken to hospital in ambulances as police picked through the nuts and bolts that the bomb was apparently packed with, television images showed.
   
It was not known whether the authoritarian Lukashenko was at the concert at the exact time of the blast but he was shown in a white suit visiting the site with officials after the explosion.
   
Health ministry officials said around 50 people had been hospitalised, Interfax news agency reported. It quoted witnesses as saying they saw people with fingers and toes blown off in the moments after the blast.
   
"All the injuries I have seen are light or medium. No one's life is under threat. All the injuries are shrapnel wounds," said Viktor Serenko, chief doctor at a hospital in Minsk that was treating six of the injured.
   
Belarussian authorities opened a criminal inquiry into the explosion.
   
Security officers cordoned off the city centre and bomb experts were shown in television images on Friday sifting through debris at the scene. Several ambulances could also be seen nearby.
   
"I think that the explosion was organised by a hooligan who didn't like our beautiful and well-organised party. That provoked him to cause this blast," Minsk police chief Anatoly Kuleshov said on Belarussian state television.
   
"Lukashenko has called for an urgent investigation into the reasons of the explosion," Belarus's state news agency reported. The news agency said the "We are Belarussians" concert continued after the explosion.
   
The Belarussian president has ruled ex-Soviet Belarus with an iron fist since 1994. His rule is opposed by many Belarussian nationalists, who criticise his strong ties with Russia.
   
Lukashenko, a former head of a state farm, was elected to a third five-year term in 2006 in an election heavily criticised by observers amid clashes in Minsk between security forces and opposition activists.
   
The United States regards Belarus as "the last dictatorship in Europe."

Date created : 2008-07-04

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