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Four arrested for Belarus blast

Latest update : 2008-07-09

Four people were detained in connection with a bomb attack that wounded dozens in Belarus last week according to state television, while opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich accused state officials of being behind the attack.

Four men linked to a nationalist group have been held in connection with a bomb attack in Belarus that injured dozens of people last week, state television and opposition figures said Wednesday.
   
The men were named by opposition activists as Sergei Chislov, Igor Korsak, Viktor Leshchinsky and Miroslav Lozovsky. Lozovsky's wife told AFP the four were all members of an organisation called the White Legion.
   
"Four people have been detained," the television report quoted Igor Kuznetsov, head of the KGB secret service for the capital Minsk, as saying.
   
"These include people who belong to an unregistered destructive organisation and people with experience in using explosives," the report said.
   
But opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich said he did not believe the men were involved and instead accused state officials of being behind the attack at an outdoor concert also attended by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
   
"I don't think anyone from the opposition is capable of this. State authorities should look at themselves more closely and look for those responsible for this attack among their own," Milinkevich told AFP.
   
He said the White Legion was "a patriotic, peaceful organisation."
   
The explosion of a home-made bomb filled with bolts and screws injured dozens of young revellers at the concert in the early hours of Friday, causing shock in this tightly-controlled country ruled by the authoritarian Lukashenko.
   
The concert was being held to celebrate Belarussian Independence Day on July 3, a holiday that marks the liberation of Minsk from Nazi occupation. A second explosive device that failed to detonate was also found at the scene.
   
The president later said he did not think the attack was an assassination attempt. He was seen in photographs looking grave in a white suit at the scene of the blast as medical personnel tended to the injured.
   
After publicly berating officials for failing to prevent the blast, Lukashenko on Tuesday sacked the head of the security council, Viktor Sheiman, and the chief of his presidential administration, Gennady Navyglas.
   
The arrests came after opposition forces urged the authoritarian Lukashenko not to use the bomb attack as a justification to crack down on his opponents in a regime classified by Washington as "the last dictatorship in Europe."
   
Lozovsky's wife Nina Shidlovskaya told AFP her husband was detained on Tuesday and was, along with the three other men, a member of the White Legion, the youth wing of the outlawed Belarussian Union of Military Personnel.
   
"All four of the detainees are members of the unregistered organisation the White Legion," said Shidlovskaya, a former spokeswoman for another opposition leader, Alexander Kozulin.
   
"They kept my husband until very late last night on the orders of the Minsk region KGB, then they handed him over to investigators in the capital," Shidlovskaya said.
   
The Belarussian Union of Military Personnel was formed in the last years of the Soviet Union and enforced public order at demonstrations in the early 1990s but was banned in 1996 after Lukashenko's rise to power.
   
Sheiman, the former head of the security council, was also a member.
   
Human rights activist Lyubov Luneva told AFP that Korsak, who lives with his stepmother, has been in custody for the past three days.
   
"They found bolts, screws and rubber gloves in his apartment," Luneva said.
   
"The stepmother pointed out that all these things can be found in any apartment and that on July 3 the family had left the apartment for the countryside, got back late and did not go out again," she added.
   
An activist with the Youth Front opposition organization, Nastya Azarka, told AFP that she had been questioned on Tuesday by the KGB. Six Belarussian opposition figures were questioned earlier in connection with the bombing.

Date created : 2008-07-09

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