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Local police may have helped terrorists plan Russian siege

Irish Examiner | September 7 2004

THE militants who seized a school in Russia, killing more than 350 people may have had help from local police, an official admitted yesterday.

Meanwhile, the president of North Ossetia, the southern province where the hostage drama unfolded, apologised for failing to avert it.

"I fully understand my responsibility," Alexander Dzasokhov told doctors and relatives of the wounded children in a hospital in the regional capital Vladikavkaz, not far from Beslan.

"I want to beg your pardon for failing to protect children, teachers and parents," said the regional leader, who looked distressed with tears in his eyes.

In another sign of officials taking responsibility for the bloodbath, the regional Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiyev offered his resignation. It was not accepted.

"After what happened in Beslan I have no right to hold this post, both as an officer and a gentleman," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Dzantiyev as saying.

Official accounts say forces moved on the school gymnasium on Friday after Chechen separatists holding 1,000 people hostage started firing on children fleeing in panic from two explosions.

Half the dead were children. The rest were teachers, parents and relatives.

Valery Andreyev, local head of the FSB security service, was quoted by Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy as saying the militants may have received help from local police, possibly because they were coerced.

Soslan Bidoyev, 23, whose brother was taken to hospital after the siege, was shocked by his account of events at the school when it was initially seized last Wednesday.

"He told us that when the hostages were brought in, the gunmen made the adults pry open the gymnasium floor. They took out supplies of weapons from underneath the floor," he said.

The Interfax news agency also quoted security sources as saying the weapons had been smuggled into the school well in advance.

The source claimed that arms were smuggled in during building work in the summer.

ITAR-Tass quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying on Saturday that the school assault was financed by Abu Omar As-Seyf, an Arab who is said to represent al-Qaida in Chechnya. The news agency said the assault was masterminded by Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

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