Blast in Minsk subway kills 7, wounds 50

Apr 11 2011 - 3:23pm

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The blast site of the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Andrei Stasevich, BelTA, pool)
A wounded blast victim is brought by rescuers to an ambulance vehicle at Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A wounded blast victim speaks on a cell phone at Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A blast victim body lies on a stretcher near Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, second right, accompanied by his bodyguards looks at the blast site inside the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Andrei Stasevich, BelTA, pool)
The blast site of the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Andrei Stasevich, BelTA, pool)
A wounded blast victim is brought by rescuers to an ambulance vehicle at Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A wounded blast victim speaks on a cell phone at Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A blast victim body lies on a stretcher near Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, second right, accompanied by his bodyguards looks at the blast site inside the Oktyabrskaya subway station in Minsk, Belarus, on Monday, April 11, 2011. An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, and an official in the presidential administration said there were fatalities. (AP Photo/Andrei Stasevich, BelTA, pool)

MINSK, Belarus -- An explosion tore through a key subway station in the Belarusian capital of Minsk during evening rush hour Monday, killing seven people and wounding 50 others, officials said.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw heavily wounded people being carried out of the Oktyabrskaya subway station, including one person with missing legs.

Several witnesses told The Associated Press that the explosion hit just as passengers were stepping off a train about 6 p.m. (1500 GMT). The Oktyabrskaya station, where Minsk's two subway lines intersect, was crowded with transferring passengers at the end of the work day.

The station is within 100 meters (yards) of the residence of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko and the Palace of the Republic, a concert hall often used for government ceremonies.

There was no immediate indication of whether the blast was an accident or a terrorist attack.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Svetlana Borovskaya told Thee Associated Press that seven people were killed and 50 wounded.

One witness, Alexei Kiklevich, said at least part of the station's ceiling collapsed after the explosion.

Igor Tumash, 52, said he was getting off a train when "there was a large flash, an explosion and heavy smoke. I fell on my knees and crawled ... bodies were piled on each other."

He said he saw a man with a severed leg and rushed to help him.

"But then I saw he was dead," Tumash said, starting to cry.

Political tensions have been rising in Belarus since December, when a massive demonstration against a disputed presidential election sparked a harsh crackdown by police in which more than 700 people were arrested, including seven presidential candidates.

Lukashenko, who was declared the overwhelming winner of the disputed Dec. 19 election, has run Belarus, a former Soviet republic, with an iron fist since 1994. However, Belarus' beleaguered opposition has been largely peaceful for years, with only a few clashes with police.

In July 2008, a bomb blast at a concert attended by Lukashenko injured about 50 people in Minsk. No arrests in the case were reported.

 

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