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Chechen 'claims Beslan attack'

From Jill Dougherty
CNN Moscow Bureau Chief

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Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, seen in a 1999 file photo.
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Putin touts anti-terrorism initiatives, but some say he's making a power play

Thousands of Russians rally against terrorism in Moscow.

Footage taken by hostage takers inside the school gym.

Political fallout over the attack hurts Putin.
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Chechen terrorist leader Samil Basayev has claimed responsibility for several recent terrorist attacks in Russia, including a school hostage siege that left more than 300 adults and children dead, according to a rebel Web site.

In a ranting and rambling e-mail message posted on Kavkazcenter.com, Basayev said his "Shahid Brigade Riadus-Salahina" carried out a series of "successful militant operations."

In addition to the siege in Beslan, he claimed responsibility for a Moscow metro bombing that killed 10 people and explosions that downed two passenger jets, killing 90. It was impossible to confirm whether the message was genuine.

Russia's Foreign Ministry quickly reacted to the claims, saying Friday the attacks were tied to international terrorism.

President Vladimir Putin later said Russia was "seriously preparing to act preventively against terrorists," the Interfax news agency reported. (Full story)

In his message, Basayev described the Beslan massacre as a "terrible tragedy" and blamed it on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said the "Kremlin vampire destroyed and injured 1,000 children and adults, giving the order to storm the school for the sake of his imperial ambitions and preserving his own throne."

Basayev claimed Russian special forces had a plan to storm the school from the beginning of the two-day siege. The Russian government has said it didn't want to storm the school but had no choice after gunfire and explosions erupted on the third day of the siege.

He said the hostage-takers had demanded that Russia immediately stop the war in Chechnya and begin to pull its troops out of the republic. If not, they demanded Putin's "immediate resignation as president."

The terrorist leader said he has passed on a personal message to Putin through two local governors.

In it, he said, he offered Putin "independence in exchange for security." According to Basayev, the rebels would stop financing any groups fighting the Russian Federation and stop the formation of any "military bases" on Russian territory.

He also said he guaranteed that all Muslims in Russia would not take any armed action against the nation for 10 to 15 years.

Basayev said he personally trained the Beslan hostage-takers in a forest 12 miles (20 km) from the town over a 10-day period. There were 33 hostage-takers, including two women and two Arabs, he said.

Revealing the tab for the terrorist operations, Basayev said he spent $4,000 on the airliner bombings, $7,000 for the Moscow bombing, and 8,000 euros on the Beslan siege.

Basayev denied knowing al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

"I do not get money from him, but I would not refuse such money," he wrote. Basayev said he has received "only $10,000 and 5,500 euros from foreigners."

On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said officials believed Chechen terrorist activities were financed from abroad.

"Whatever (separatist Chechen leader Aslan) Maskhadov or Basayev may say," Yakovenko said, "there are many indications that terrorist activities are supported from abroad. ... That is why we do not trust such claims."

According to Yakovenko, Moscow is convinced the latest terrorist attacks are "part of a chain of international terrorist operations."

On Wednesday, some teachers and students returned to school in Beslan for the first time since the massacre. Classes had been suspended since September 1, when a group of terrorists stormed School No. 1 and took about 1,200 adults and children captive.

The siege ended September 3 with the deaths of at least 339 hostages, about half of them children.

School No. 1 remains closed and has been turned into a makeshift memorial. The survivors have been given two months leave and are receiving treatment in the Russian resort town of Sochi.


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