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Russia apartment bombs: Two jailed

Tycoon Boris Berezovsky has alleged bombs were planted by state agents.
Tycoon Boris Berezovsky has alleged bombs were planted by state agents.

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MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Two men were jailed for life on Monday for their part in 1999 bomb blasts at apartment blocks in Russia that killed nearly 300 people and led to Moscow sending troops back into rebel Chechnya.

Itar-Tass news agency said Adam Dekkushev, 42, and Yusuf Krymshamkhalov, 37, were found guilty of a raft of charges that included terrorism, murder with extreme cruelty, handling explosives and membership of armed groups.

The charges stemmed from a series of bomb blasts in Russia in September 1999, two of which destroyed apartment blocks in Moscow and a third a similar housing complex in the southern town of Volgodonsk.

Russian media quoted legal counsel as saying the two men had partially admitted their guilt.

Dekkushev was quoted as telling the court he had not wanted to cause any casualties and had been in favor of attacking other targets rather than an apartment block. Krymshamkhalov said he had not been aware he had been transporting explosives.

Almost 300 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the blasts that traumatized public opinion at the time.

Authorities immediately linked the blasts to Chechen rebels and President Vladimir Putin -- then prime minister -- used the attacks to justify sending Russian troops back into Chechnya to crush separatist guerrillas.

Exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a Putin foe, has alleged the bombs were planted by state security agents to provide a pretext for fresh military action in Chechnya, but has never presented proof to support this.

Russian troops had withdrawn from the mainly Muslim province in 1996 after 22 months of bitter fighting that led to the region being granted de facto independence.

Russian media quoted investigators as saying they believed the blasts had been masterminded by two notorious foreign guerrilla leaders, Khattab and Abu Umar, who had fought for the Chechen cause.

Khattab, a Jordanian, and Abu Umar, born in Saudi Arabia, are now dead.

They said authorities were still trying to trace two members of the group to which Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov belonged who are still at large and the subject of an international manhunt.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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