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Sep. 16, 2004
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The Investigation is Hitting it on the Head
// Beslan Terrorists Still Not Identified
Yesterday, the RF General Prosecutor's Office filed accusations against Nurpasha Kulaev, one of the participants in the Beslan school hostage taking, under nine articles of the RF Criminal Code. In particular, he is accused of murder, banditry, terrorism and kidnapping. Kommersant reporter Sergey Dyupin has the details of the terrorist act investigation.
Terrorist Found under an OMON Truck

The accusations against Nurpasha Kulaev, a 24-year-old resident of Stary Engenoi, in the Nozhai-Yurtovsk district of Chechnya, were put forward by a Igor Tkachev General Prosecution's investigator for especially importance cases, who is heading up the investigation of the hostage taking in Beslan. Nurpasha Kulaev is incriminated on nine articles of the RF Criminal Code, including murder, banditry, terrorism and kidnapping. He has confessed his guilt in part. Kulaev states that while he was a part of the terrorist group, he did not kill anybody and did not even shoot.

Kulaev was detained on September 3, after the end of the storming of the school. When the active military combat was over, and hundreds of people gathered by the school, all of a sudden machine-gun fire was opened on them from the attic. OMON soldiers drove the crowd into the local police department, and the tanks opened fire at the attic. The machine-gunner fired back for another half an hour before he was killed. At the same time, the crowd began searching for terrorists. Released hostages said that they changed into civilian clothes and mixed in with the local residents.

During the search held by policemen, soldiers and local militia, there were five people who attracted their attention. The suspects were identified by their accents, then they were undressed to check if they were circumcised and thereby determined to be Muslim. One of them was dismembered by the angry mob. People injured one's head in such way that investigators are still not able to identify him. Another four were barely rescued by OMON. They even had to shoot above the crowd to stop the lynching. Three of the detained turned out to be local Ingush not implicated in the siege, one of them being a deaf and dumb hauler. They were later released.

Kulaev, dressed in the tracksuit, was found hiding behind KamAZ truck belonging to OMON. He did not begin giving evidence right after his arrest. At first, he only counted his beads and kept saying: I want to live, I want to live Then he told about how he went to Ossetia with his brother Khanpasha (photo No. 9) and Arsen Merahoev and Mairbek Shibikhanov. Khanpasha Kulaev was the oldest of them, and he has fought in Shamil Basaev's troops for years. Narpasha states he did not know why their group was going to Beslan.

Numbers Unidentified

Nurpasha Kulaev was able to identify only his brother and fellow-villagers. There are problems in identifying the other participants of the siege. Yesterday, RF General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov told Interfax that, after the release of hostages, 30 bodies of terrorists were discovered, one more of them torn apart by the crowd, and Kulaev was the only one detained. According to the victims, there were no more than 32 terrorists. The idea that any of the terrorists could have escaped was not confirmed in the process of investigation, the General Prosecutor said.

Ustinov said that 14 terrorists have been identified, and the process is not over yet. So far Vladimir Khodov has been positively identified, who is the twentieth in the investigation materials. He was identified by his fingerprints. The investigative group working in Beslan explained they were able to get fingerprints from only 26 bodies, the others had had their hands damaged. A search of all files did not reveal to whom the fingerprints belonged. It turned out that the fingerprints and the photos were mixed up, and because of that wrong cards were sent to Ingushetia and Chechnya, where, for instance, to the picture of terrorist No. 3 were attached the fingerprints of terrorist No. 5.

From the words of Kulaev, and other operations data it was learned that the terrorists were commanded by two people who called themselves Polkovnik and Magas. Polkovnik (No. 12) was identified as resident of Galashky village in Ingushetia Ruslan Khachubarov. He was believed to be the one shooting from the school's attic. Later the investigation learned that it was Fantomas, one of Basaev's bodyguards, who was killed in the attic. And Ruslan Khachubarov's body has not been found among the terrorists killed. Ustinov also spoke cautiously about Khachubarov. During the investigation, we have learned that the terrorists were commanded by a bandit nicknamed Polkovnik, whom we have not identified yet, he said.

The other terrorist leader, Magomed Evloev (Magas), No. 30 in the investigation material, also has not been identified. Kulaev said that Magas, who was wanted for the bombing of the Ingushetia FSB building last year, for organizing attacks in the republic in June of 2004, and for dozens of terrorist acts in Chechnya, was killed in the very beginning of the storm. According to him, when Magas jumped out of the GAZ-66, which they rode to get to the school, one of the policemen guarding the vehicle unloaded a whole cartridge clip point-blank at him till he was shot dead.

However, the archives contained no fingertips of Magas. Neither did his parents come to identify him. Nevertheless, both his description when he was yet alive and his photos proved that the body in the Vladikavkaz morgue belongs to him. Though everything was not that smooth. According to information from the Ingushetian police, Magas was not Magomed Evloev' nickname, but Ali Taziev's, a former Ingush policeman who came over to Shamil Basaev's group and was among the hostage-takers in the school. However, investigators are quite skeptical about the version that Magas was really Ali Taziev. We have information that Magas comes from Magomed-Maga rather than the Ingush capital.

Still there was an Ali Taziev among the hostage-takers. One of the hostages, Aleksandr, said that he had actually saved his life. When he learnt that I'm a wrestler he said he wrestlers too, and that when everything starts, I should hide behind the bookcases piled up in the corner, and maybe then I'll survive. That's what I did and I'm alive now.

Similar Barrels

The origin of the arms used by the terrorists has been positively established. In the course of the investigation, it became clear that almost all of it had been stolen from Interior Ministry warehouses in Ingushetia when they were besieged on June 22.

At the Interior Ministry of North Ossetia, they say they found 31 Kalashnikov machineguns, 3 hand grenade launchers, and several pistols and a shotgun made in Turkey in the school. The shotgun was carried by an Ossetian who had driven close to the school thinking to help the children, got out of his car and was killed. The rest of the weapons belonged to the terrorists. One of them even brought with him a rare R-92s revolver, an experimental model that had been developed for the police, of which 1000 were produced. It was never adopted by the police.

The terrorist had grenade-equipped flamethrowers as well. An examination of the site showed that they were able to fire a Shmel flamethrower and RPG-26 grenade launcher five times each and launch 20 grenades from a RPG-7 launcher. They also used a heavy rapid-fire AGS-17 Flame grenade launcher. They did not find that grenade launcher, but there were much debris left from it. Investigators think that that up to ten weapons were not found. They did not find even a single sniper's rifle, even though participants in the storm said that there were three snipers among the terrorists, who engaged the federal snipers trying to surround the school. In addition, hostages say that the terrorists had Stechkin sub-machineguns. They were not found either. Those popular weapons were apparently by the storm troops or local volunteers.

The terrorist holding the school had made preparations to hold off a storm. They brought eight surveillance cameras with them and set them up at all points of possible attack. The images were monitored on the television in the teachers' room. Remote control detonators for the main explosives set in the school were also located there. It is not yet known whether a command was given to set off the bombs or whether they went off after the first accidental blast. It is known, however, that the female suicide bombers blew themselves up before the storm.

It is obvious that the women's nerves just gave out, one investigator said. Maybe they were simply not psychologically prepared for so many women and children among the hostages. Their bodies were found in the same room. One of them detonated her explosive belt, and the other one died along with her.

The women have not been officially identified. Their pictures are Nos. 1 and 25.

The terrorist had both handmade and factory-made explosives. Explosives technicians found OZM-72 fragmentation mines and exact copies of the MON-90 army mine. Technicians said that, judging from the destruction of the school, bombs with force equivalent to 5 kg of TNT went off. Everyone in the gym should have died in a blast like that, one expert said. But the terrorist, fearing a gas attack of the type at Nord-Ost, broke out all the windows. And the roof was weak. Therefore, part of the blast wave was dispersed and many hostages stayed alive.

Sergey Dyupin

All the Article in Russian as of Sep. 15, 2004

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