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Subway Explosion Rocks Belarus Capital

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- An explosion tore through a subway station in the Belarusian capital during evening rush hour Monday, causing at least a dozen serious injuries and sending clouds of smoke pouring into the street.

The official state news agency Belta said there were fatalities.

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

There was no immediate official count on casualties.

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

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

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

The location is within about 100 meters (yards) of the government's Palace of the Republic building and the residence of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Political tension in Belarus has been rising 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 Dec. 19 election, has run Belarus since 1994.

However, Belarus' beleaguered opposition has been largely peaceful for years, with only a few incidents of clashes with police.

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