Belarus metro bomb suspects 'confess'

Belarusian president claims two held over Minsk attack have confessed amid fears opposition could face fresh repression.

    Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, says two suspects have confessed to being involved in Tuesday's Minsk metro bombing that killed 12 amid fears of a new wave of repression against the country's opposition.

    Lukashenko said on state television, that the worst attack in the country's history, which also wounded 200, had been "solved" but admitted its motive remained unclear.

    "The crime was solved at 5:00 am. KGB officers and police took one day to complete a superb operation and detain the perpetrators without noise and chatter," he said. The security service is still known by its Soviet-era acronym in Belarus.

    "The main thing is that we know who carried out the act of terror and how. We don't know why yet. But we will know that too. We should not relax, there should be cleansing along all fronts," said Lukashenko

    Lukashenko took aim at the opposition who contested his landslide election victory on December 19 and then suffered jailing and beatings, implying that anti-government critics may be connected to the blast.

    "I order a review of all statements made by politicians. We are looking for perpetrators and masterminds. These characters from the so-called 'fifth column' may lay their cards on the table and show who is the mastermind."

    'Detain and question'

    Lukashenko told the security service: "Detain and question. Don't pay attention to any kind of democracy and the wails and groans of the pathetic Westerners."

    The blast came amid rising political tensions in the country following Lukashenko's re-election, which sparked a massive opposition protest followed by the arrest of hundreds of people.

    Lukashenko, in power for nearly 17 years and dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the West, was declared the overwhelming winner of December's presidential election which international observers said was rigged.

    He has run the former Soviet nation of 10 million with an iron fist, retaining Soviet-style controls over the economy and cracking down on opposition and independent media.

    The European Union and the United States have responded to the flawed vote with sanctions, leaving Lukashenko to rely exclusively on it main sponsor and ally Russia.

    Lukashenko has often launched diatribes at the West, accusing it of trying to destabilise Belarus. But his relations with Russia also have often been strained in the past as he accused the Kremlin of trying to wrest control over Belarus' key economic assets.

    Belarus is facing a severe economic crisis with hard currency reserves running critically low and people waiting in day-long lines to exchange rubles as they prepare for devaluation of the national currency.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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