Rebel leader says another Beslan is possible

5th August 2005 at 01:00

The Chechen rebel leader who organised the deadly attack on a school in Beslan last year has said a similar attack could happen again.

Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the 2004 school attack in which gunmen held more than 1,000 hostages for nearly three days in the Russian town of Beslan.

The raid ended in gunfire and explosions, killing more than 330 people, mostly children.

"It's not the children who are responsible," Mr Basayev said.

"Responsibility is with the whole Russian nation. If the war doesn't come to each of them individually, it will never stop in Chechnya."

Mr Baseyev said he was plotting more terrorist attacks. "I'm making plans; we're always looking for new ways," he told the ABC News programme Nightline. Asked if a Belsan-type attack could occur again, he said: "Of course. As long as the genocide of the Chechen nation continues... anything can happen."

Mr Basayev, who has a $10 million (pound;5.6m) bounty on his head and rarely speaks to journalists, was interviewed in his Chechen hideout by Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky.

Russian officials tried to stop ABC going ahead with Thursday's broadcast of Mr Babitsky's interview with Basayev and said they were "shocked" that their objections had been ignored.

Schools across Russia reacted to the Beslan tragedy by improving security.

Some schools in Moscow introduced identity cards for children and many employed private security guards paid for by parents.

However, most Russian schoolchildren attend schools far from the affluence of Moscow and few, if any, visible signs of security can be seen in the country's provincial towns and cities.

The Kremlin sent troops into Chechnya in 1994 to crush its separatist leadership, but they withdrew after a devastating 20-month war. Russian forces returned in 1999 after blaming rebels for a string of apartment-building blasts that killed about 300 people.

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