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11 Apr, 2011 15:11

Blast rocks Minsk subway

Blast rocks Minsk subway

Belarusian security forces confirmed that 12 people were killed when a blast ripped through Oktyabrskaya metro station in Minsk during the evening rush hour. At least 149 were injured.

Belarusian police have made a photofit of two suspects involved in the terrorist attack in the Minsk Metro.  The images will be released later.A total of 149 people have been admitted to Minsk hospitals, 22 of them in serious condition and 30 moderately injured. Twenty injured victims were taken to the city’s No. 2 clinical hospital, local television channel STV reported. Other wounded were received by the No. 6 hospital.The survivors mostly have wounds to their arms and legs as well as to the lower torso, according to Vitaly Gurko, chief physician of city hospital No. 6, as quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency.All local medics have been summoned to work to be available to conduct surgical operations, a public health service official was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.According to RIA Novosti news agency, the explosion went off at 17:56 local time.The bomb was stuffed with pieces of metal, and the nature of injuries confirms suspicions that it was a terrorist attack, the Interfax news agency quoted a source in Minsk law enforcement authorities as saying. The explosion was equivalent to five to seven kilograms of TNT, officials said.Belarus’ prosecutor’s office has opened a case for the terrorist attack.The police have beefed up security measures at large venues, railway stations and airports. All transport crossing Belarus’ border is being inspected.Belarusian medical officials went on local television to ask Minsk residents to donate blood for the victims. A special hotline has been set up in Minsk to announce information about the victims.Minsk city hall declared Wednesday a day of mourning for the victims of the blast.The list of those taken to Minsk hospitals is available here. “Aleksandr Lukashenko has ordered to render all necessary assistance to the injured and the victims’ relatives, ” said presidential aide Vladimir Makey.Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko paid a visit to the site of the attack on the Minsk metro.He arrived, walked down a connecting passage, stayed onsite for some time and then left. At 9 pm Minsk time, Lukashenko convened an emergency meeting, which commenced with a minute of silence to commemorate those who fell victim to Monday's explosion. During the meeting, Lukashenko stated that this challenge "which has been thrown out to his country is very serious" and that Belarus has to find an adequate response. Lukashenko said that although there is a possibility that the explosion could have been organized abroad, all local ammunition storage facilities should be double checked. "You have to check all military storage facilities if all ammunition and explosives are in fact present and properly guarded," Lukashenko told the country’s Minister of Defense, Yury Zhadobin.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, in a phone conversation the two leaders held today. Medvedev offered Russia's help in investigating the terrorist act and searching for the organizers and perpetrators of the blast in the Minsk metro, according to Medvedev's press secretary, Natalya Timakova.Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Health has assembled a team of highly professional neurosurgeons and emergency physicians with substantial experience in aiding blast victims, and is planning on sending them to Minsk, the Interfax news agency reported.

­Witnesses' accounts

The blast produced a huge crater, witnesses claim.  People were wounded by the blast and also the debris of the crumbled structures. “The metro station is cordoned off. Ambulances are heading towards city hospitals. The traffic has stopped in that part of the city,” said Vitaly Garbuzov, an eyewitness. “The explosion took place at a busy metro intersection in the underpass. Witnesses say they saw thick smoke rising and black debris scattered. People were carried out of the station into ambulances. That's all I know at this moment,” he added.

­Past bombings in Belarus

Although explosions, bombings and other types of terrorist activity are very uncommon in Belarus, the country has had to deal with such unfortunate events in the recent past. In the summer of 2008, an explosion rocked the capital during celebrations for Independence Day on July 3. An explosive device was set off near an obelisk in the center of the city, wounding 55 people.And in 2005, two blasts rocked the center of the city of Vitebsk. The first explosion hit on September 14, injuring two. The device was stashed in a flower bed. The second explosion happened at a disco club, where mostly young people were in attendance. A makeshift bomb was hidden in an empty beer bottle and stuffed with elements aimed at causing maximum damage. Approximately 50 people were wounded in the attack. No one claimed responsibility for either attack, and the perpetrators have never been identified.

­Police search Moscow metro after Minsk blast

Moscow police are searching the Moscow metro for any objects which may look suspicious after an explosion in Minsk’s underground.The capital’s police were summoned for instructions shortly after news broke of the blast in Minsk. Law enforcement officials were told to pay special attention to any people and objects on the platforms which look in any way suspicious.