An explosion tore through a key subway station in the Belarusian capital of Minsk during evening rush hour today, killing seven and wounding 50 others, officials said. An AP reporter at the scene saw heavily wounded people being carried out of the Oktyabrskaya subway station, which within 100 meters 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.
Several witnesses told the AP that the explosion hit just as passengers were stepping off a train about 6pm. One witness said at least part of the station's ceiling collapsed after the explosion. Another 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." 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.