A bombing in the Minsk metro on Monday killed at least 12 people and injured more than 200. Belarus has faced political turmoil since President Aleksander G. Lukashenko was re-elected in December, with the opposition claiming that the election was rigged. At the time, security responded to protests with heavy crackdowns and even sent riot police to arrest hundreds of people. Opposition politicians fear that the president will use this explosion to justify a new crackdown.
Yet no one has taken credit for yesterday's bomb and it's still unclear who is to blame. Despite the controversy surrounding Lukashenko's re-election, political violence in Belarus is rare (though not unknown) and the country has stayed clear of Russia's war in Chechnya (ruling out a motive for Islamist terrorists).
A Belarussian outfit called the "White Legion" was linked to the 2008 bombings and may have had a hand in two earlier explosions in 2005. But nobody knows much about it. Some even doubt it exists. In ex-communist countries, such bogeys are sometimes conjured up by clandestine sponsorship from ill-wishers, inside the country or abroad. On investigation, they prove to have ectoplasmic properties.
Splits within the regime are a possibility. The arrest in December 2010 of Igor Azarenok, the air-force chief, remains a mystery, and may be resented by his friends. Some analysts posit the existence of rival factions of "young wolves" and "old wolves" (the former friends of Mr Lukashenka's son Viktar, the others old KGB men).
Another analysis involves a hardline faction determined to push Belarus further towards autocracy and away from the West. Supposedly, it outguns another (equally hypothetical) pro-European faction, by rattling the nerves of the country's erratic leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka (to give his name the Belarusian spelling: in Russian he would be Aleksandr Lukashenko).
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