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$10m reward for Chechen rebels

Kidnap leader 'killed three fellow hostage-takers'


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Hostages sit below explosives strung from basketball hoops.
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Footage taken by hostage takers inside the school gym.

Thousands of Russians rally against terrorism in Moscow.

Political fallout over the attack hurts Putin.
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Vladimir V. Putin
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russia has offered $10 million for information that helps "neutralize" two Chechen rebel leaders, and a military official said Moscow was prepared to strike at terrorists around the world.

Meanwhile, a top Russian official shed new light on last week's deadly school siege, telling President Vladimir Putin the lead attacker shot one terrorist and blew up two women suicide bombers after being challenged about his tactics.

In a briefing televised Wednesday, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said the crisis came to a bloody end after the terrorists apparently set off a bomb by mistake while changing how the explosives were arranged.

At least 336 hostages, including scores of children, were killed in the siege, Ustinov said.

Earlier, Russian television broadcast chilling video from inside the school -- offering a first-hand glimpse of the horror inside.

Hundreds of adults and children could be seen huddled in the school's gymnasium as masked gunmen strung up explosives.

On Wednesday, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) offered a reward of 300 million rubles ($10.3 million) for information that could help them hunt down rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.

Russian officials have blamed the pair for "inhuman terrorist acts on the territory of the Russian Federation," including the attack in the southern town of Beslan, near Chechnya.

Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the Russian General Staff, said the country was prepared to take preemptive strikes against terrorist bases in the region in response to the massacre.

Even though Chechen rebels were believed to be behind the school tragedy, Russian authorities believe the hostage-takers were part of an international band. Officials have said 10 of the terrorists were from Arab countries.

In his briefing to Putin, Ustinov said more than 1,200 people were held hostage in the siege. Initially the government said about 350 had been seized.

Ustinov said that according to an alleged attacker being detained, the group's leader -- known as "The Colonel" -- shot one of the militants and said he would do the same to any other terrorists or hostages who did not obey.

Later that day, the leader detonated the explosives worn by two female attackers, killing them, "to frighten both the terrorists and hostages," Ustinov said.

According to Ustinov, one of the militants was stationed with his foot on a button that would set off the explosives. If he lifted his foot, the bombs strung up around the gymnasium would detonate.

On Friday, the militants decided for unknown reasons to change the arrangement of the explosives, and appear to have set off one bomb by mistake, Ustinov said. That sparked panic as hostages tried to flee and the attackers opened fire. Special forces stormed the school, and an hours-long gunfight ensued.

The hostage situation began September 1 when terrorists seized the school in Beslan in North Ossetia, a small southern republic in the middle of the Caucasus long regarded as an ethnic powder keg.

On Wednesday, the president of North Ossetia said the regional government would step down, news agencies reported.

"I promise that in the next two days there will be an order dismissing all the government," Reuters quoted President Alexander Dzasokhov as telling a protest rally in the regional capital Vladikavkaz.

In the video from inside the school -- shown on Russia's NTV television -- a masked man is seen with his black boot on a book apparently wired as a detonator.

Nearby, a young boy dressed in a white-collared shirt and dress pants holds both his hands behind his head with a look of terror on his face.

The video, which appears to have been shot by the terrorists, shows wires strung up throughout the gym and explosives hanging from the basketball goals at both ends of the court.

Another explosive hangs above the heads of the hostages in the middle of the room.

A man in camouflage fatigues and a camouflage mask appears to be stringing up a large detonator in view of the hostages. At least one woman, dressed from head to toe in black and armed with a pistol, stands guard at a doorway.

A rocket-propelled grenade, wires and other explosive material can be seen at times, as well as a pile of clothing and shoes. A red streak of what appears to be blood on the floor is also visible, as if a bleeding body was pulled across the floor.

NTV aired the video, which lasts a little over a minute, during its daily 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) newscast Tuesday, saying it had exclusive footage from inside the gym. The network did not give any explanation as to how it obtained the video.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of stunned, sad and angry Russians staged a somber demonstration in Moscow, protesting and mourning the massacre.

Organized by Russia's powerful trade unions, demonstrators waved signs and listened to speakers outside the Kremlin. The gathering appeared to some observers to be one of the largest ever held there. (Full story)

Putin defended his government's decision to storm the school, saying the hostage-takers had begun shooting children out of boredom.

Conceding it took time to mobilize the rescue operation, he said Russian special forces stormed the school knowing they themselves were likely to be killed.

Putin has criticized Western leaders in the wake of the tragedy for urging Russia to negotiate with Chechen rebels, whom he likened to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

These are not "freedom fighters," Putin said. "Would you talk with Osama bin Laden?" he asked. Putin said Chechen separatists are trying to ignite ethnic tensions in the former Soviet Union and it could have severe repercussions. (Full story)

"Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?" Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted Putin as saying.

A few weeks ago the United States granted asylum to Ilias Akhmadov, the "foreign minister" of the Chechen separatist movement.

"The United States has met with people from Chechnya who had differing points of view, including points of view that differ from the Russian government," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

"But we don't meet with terrorists. We don't meet with people who are involved in violence or fomenting violence."

Putin said each time Russia has complained to the Bush administration about meetings held between U.S. officials and Chechen separatist representatives, the U.S. response has been "we'll get back to you" or "we reserve the right to talk with anyone we want."


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