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Confusion and suspicion after bomb blast in Budapest

History

Information is still scant in the wake of a nail bomb explosion at 10.30 pm on Saturday near the corner of Teréz körút and Király utca in downtown Budapest. Two police officers were seriously injured in the blast, and police announced a manhunt to apprehend the alleged perpetrator, index.hu reported Sunday.

National Police Commissioner Károly Papp (left) and Imre Keresztes, head of the Central Investigative Chief Prosecutorʼs Office, hold a press conference Sunday evening.

Initially no official reaction or explanation for the explosion was forthcoming. At around 6.30 pm Sunday, some 20 hours after the blast which damaged several cars and blew out windows of nearby buildings, National Police Commissioner Károly Papp and Imre Keresztes, head of the Central Investigative Chief Prosecutorʼs Office, held a press conference to reveal still sketchy details of the incident.

The officials claimed that the police officers were the intentional targets of the attack, and that the aim had been to assassinate them using a home-made explosive device containing nails. Index.hu reported that the officers had stopped to examine a package left unattended in a doorway, speculating that the device may have been detonated by remote control. The two injured officers are described as in serious but stable condition following operations, and remain in intensive care in hospital.

It was revealed that police have issued a manhunt for a suspect described as aged 20–25, 170 cm in height, wearing a light-colored fishing hat, dark jacket, blue jeans and white trainers. An award of HUF 10 million was promised for information leading to the perpetrator’s arrest. Police are examining footage from some 145 CCTV cameras, in cooperation with the Counter-Terrorism Center and civil secret services.  

In the wake of the attack, police checks were stepped up at Liszt Ferenc International Airport and at major train stations. A meeting of the parliamentary National Security Committee was convened for Monday.

In a statement, the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) demanded that the government and police clarify what happened on Teréz körút, observing that many on social media had noted the timing of the attack so close to the forthcoming referendum on refugee quotas on October 2, index.hu reported.

“Following the government’s hate campaign over many months, a mood has been created in the country in which many people do not think it impossible – indeed, even think it likely – that Orbán’s government might be behind an action such as this. This is not what we are claiming, but it is a widespread opinion on social media sites,” said DK politician György Kakuk.

Responding to the DK statement, Fidesz parliamentary group spokesman János Halász told pro-government daily Magyar Idők that the most important thing now is for the police and investigative authorities to carry out their work in getting to the bottom of this “vile act.” He described DK’s behavior in response as gravely irresponsible and that it was “unworthy of public figures” to suggest that Fidesz had anything to do with the events.

Following a closed meeting of parliament’s National Security and Defense and Law Enforcement committees, the latter’s chairman Lajos Kósa (Fidesz) emphasized that there is no basis to speculation on the internet and in the media, and “no cause for creating panic.”

Based on current information, it is not likely that any ideological or specifically jihadist motivation lay behind the attack, said Zsolt Molnár (Socialist), chairman of the National Security Committee, in Budapest on Monday.

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