28 December 2005, 15:32

Federal commission delivers report on Beslan

Alexander Torshin, chairman of the parliamentary commission for an investigation into the Beslan events, delivered a report on the provisional results of the commission's work at a joint meeting of the Federation Council and the Duma earlier today.

"Preparation for the terrorist act was directed by Shamil Basayev, Aslan Maskhadov, and Magomet Khashiev, separatists known for their cruelty, and by their milieu. An active part was taken by foreigners, including the well-known (Arab) terrorist Abu-Dzeit," Mr Torshin said.

"Forensic tests have established that 21 of the terrorists took heroin and another three took marijuana," he reported.

According to Mr Torshin, the parliamentary commission has come to a conclusion that the main goal of the terrorist act in Beslan was to destabilise the situation in the entire North Caucasus, Interfax says.

The commission has not collected enough materials for an unbiased judgement on this unprecedented terrorist act, Mr Torshin said though.

Eight terrorists destroyed in Beslan in early September 2004 have not been identified to date, according to him. An examination is under way to identify them and inquiries have been made to Saudi Arabia to identify two of the terrorists by their DNA.

More than 70 representatives of Russian and foreign media have been accredited to attend the presentation of the report. Before the presentation, the commission's deputy chairman Valery Diatlenko noted though that those present would not hear the final report of the commission, but "information as of 28 December."

Mr Diatlenko said that the commission would proceed with its work and that the results of three tests were yet to be obtained. The results of two of them might be available in early 2006, according to RIA Novosti.

"The commission has worked in difficult conditions. Contradictory evidence of witnesses, as some of them changed their evidence more than once, has been the greatest difficulty in the work of the commission," Mr Diatlenko remarked.

The commission has interrogated over 1,000 witnesses and written over 4,500 pages of documents, Mr Torshin said. Over 80 officials have been interrogated, including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, North Ossetian Federal Security Service Department chief General Andreyev, and other officials, among them people from the North Ossetian leadership, according to the head of the commission.

Alexander Torshin also said that the current system of antiterrorist measures was insufficiently effective. "Executives in Ingushetia and North Ossetia manifested carelessness and negligence when there really was a terrorist threat," Mr Torshin said.

"In spite of repeated warnings on the part of the federal centre and law enforcement agencies to strengthen security measures as there was a terrorist threat, the local authorities did not actually take any necessary steps.

"Because of this, officers of law enforcement agencies did not know how to act in similar emergencies, as they had not received relevant training," the commission leader noted.

Mr Torshin also pointed out that in spite that the number of hostages had been available in the first half of the day on 1 September, the reported figure continued to be 350. Meanwhile, witnesses had given evidence that their number was up to 1,100, ITAR-TASS notes.

This is what the Beslan Mothers Committee resents most. "We believe that Torshin's report should name those people who are to blame for the understatement of the hostage numbers during the seizure," Beslan Mothers Chairwoman Susanna Dudiyeva told journalists earlier today.

"Based on what we have heard from the report, I can say that again people responsible for the disinformation about the number of hostages in the gymnasium of school No 1 in Beslan have not been named. After all, special units were going to storm based on that the number of hostages was 354, but we were 1,396 there. To our mind, this had a significant influence on the operation for rescuing the hostages," Ms Dudiyeva said. The Beslan Mothers chairwoman added that they would not be able to make any conclusions on the report until they studied it in full, Interfax reports.

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