Belarus seeks two in terror attack that baffles security experts
Belarus authorities say they have images of two male suspects in what experts call a sophisticated terror attack. They have tightened security around Minsk metro stations.
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"People are shocked, and watching to see how this event will be used politically," says Oleg Manayev, director of the independent Institute of Social, Economic, and Political Studies in Minsk. "Already it's evident that there will be more pressure and repressions against democratic circles."Skip to next paragraph
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Belarussian authorities have suggested that Monday's attack might be linked to a 2008 explosion that injured 50 people at an Independence Day celebration in a Minsk park that was attended by Lukashenko. That crime was never solved.
Experts say that the bomb, a remote-controlled device equal to about 12 pounds of TNT and packed with nails and ball bearings, was not likely the work of a single individual or any group of amateurs.
"This kind of attack requires a lot of planning," says Andrei Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru, an online journal that reports on the security services. "The perpetrators had to have some sort of specialized training and experience to carry this out. In Belarus there is no opposition group that has that kind of experience. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be anyone at all capable of doing that, if we exclude the authorities."
Mr. Manayev says that many Belarussians are muttering the suspicion that Belarus's security services may have staged the act, in a bid to divert popular discontent over the worsening economy, tightening police controls, and the growing isolation of Lukashenko's regime following December's disputed election.
"It may sound like a crazy conspiracy theory to Western ears, but in this part of the world people have long experience with states that abuse their citizens for their own political profit," says Mr. Soldatov. "In Belarus many dissidents have simply disappeared in recent years, all normal freedoms are crushed and there is no reliable information in the media. We cannot know what actually happened, but it's not entirely unreasonable if we see people adding the authorities to their own private list of suspects."
Andrei Suzdaltsev, a Belarussian political exile and professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, says that Lukashenko desperately needs Russian economic aid, and he will now be able to approach the Kremlin as a fellow antiterrorist fighter.
"Lukashenko is a hero now, facing the same threat the Russians face," he says. "He's already talked to [President Dmitry] Medvedev and will soon be meeting with [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin, and will try to convince them that the situation in Belarus is so difficult that it requires their assistance. And that much is true, Belarus is in the grip of a systemic crisis that the authorities are incapable of solving. One way or another, this terrorist act is the product of that."