An explosion believed to have been caused by a bomb ripped through a subway station next to the office of Belarus' authoritarian president Monday evening, killing at least 11 people, wounding more than 100 and worsening an already tense political situation there.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion, in Minsk, the Belarus capital, but witnesses described being hit by a wave of shrapnel that they said was contained in a bomb. Several victims' limbs were torn off by the blast's force, paramedics said.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko indicated that he believed that the explosion was terrorism. Prosecutors said an inquiry was focusing on a bomb. The station, in Minsk's center, is very close to major government offices, including Mr. Lukashenko's, as well as to his official residence.

Investigators and witnesses said the blast occurred on a platform just as passengers were leaving a train in the Oktyabrskaya station about 6 p.m., at the height of the evening rush. Witnesses reported that just after the explosion, smoke poured from the station's exits, as bodies were carried out on stretchers.

While Muslim separatists from southern Russia have carried out suicide bombings in Moscow's subway system, including one last year, they have never done so in Minsk. Belarus, a former Soviet republic with a population of 10 million, does not have a Muslim insurgency, and Mr. Lukashenko, who has tightly controlled the country since 1994, has portrayed himself as a stabilizing force.

But Belarus has faced political turmoil since Mr. Lukashenko's re-election in December, which rivals denounced as rigged. When opposition parties conducted a major protest on election night, the security services -- still called the KGB in Belarus -- responded with a far-reaching crackdown, sending riot police to break it up violently and arresting hundreds of people. Several presidential candidates were detained for weeks.

Dozens of opposition activists, including at least one presidential candidate, are still in custody and have been threatened with as much as 15 years in prison for organizing the post-election rally. Mr. Lukashenko has accused the opposition of plotting a coup with aid from Western governments -- charges that European and U.S. officials have called absurd.

Mr. Lukashenko visited the Oktyabrskaya subway station Monday night and then had a meeting with top advisers. He made clear that he believed that the explosion had been caused by a bomb, referring to the attackers as "ugly monsters."

"I don't exclude the possibility that this present was brought from the outside," he said sarcastically in remarks broadcast on state television. "But we also should look at ourselves."

Opposition politicians said they feared that Mr. Lukashenko would use the explosion to justify a new crackdown. Anatoly V. Lebedko, arrested after the December election protest and only recently released, said in a phone interview that after previous bombings, the security services rounded up opposition figures, though there was no evidence of their involvement.

"Because of this unfortunate explosion, human rights could possibly be limited," Mr. Lebedko said. "At the very least, it will lead to further restrictions on the opposition and civil society. This can be expected."

Source: The New York Times