DUSHANBE, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - A powerful bomb exploded early Wednesday near the presidential palace in the capital of Tajikistan, killing a security guard.
The blast occurred at 6.10 a.m. Moscow time (3.10 a.m. GMT) outside a conference hall, 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) from the palace. An international conference was to take place in the building later on Wednesday and Tajik Prime Minister Akil Akilov was due to attend the event.
"He [security guard] saw a plastic bag lying near a wall, he picked it up and the bag exploded in his hands," Kasym Gafarov, a senior security official told reporters. "The guard died instantly."
Dushanbe prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the incident, which Tajik authorities consider a terrorist act.
Tajik Interior Minister Makhmadnazar Salikhov is urgently heading to the country's capital to oversee the investigation.
The bomb, which exploded near the presidential palace, had a charge of 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of TNT equivalent, a source in Tajikistan's Interior Ministry said.
"It is a terrorist act and the capital's prosecutors have launched an investigation," Dushanbe prosecutor Kurbonali Mukhabbatov said.
On June 16, an explosion went off at the Supreme Court building in Dushanbe. No one was hurt in the blast, but authorities characterized it as a terrorist attack aimed at intimidation.
Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, is a major transit country for drugs from the world's largest heroin producer, Afghanistan, to Russia and some Western countries.
Tajikistan's long-serving leader, Emomali Rakhmon, has repeatedly blamed Islamist militants for trying to destabilize the situation in the country.
Despite its strategic location, Tajikistan boasts few natural resources besides hydroelectric power, cotton and aluminum. It has been the recipient of foreign aid since 1997, when a devastating five-year civil war ended.