Ten million dollars for information

This week, the government of Russia offered ten million dollars for information leading to two commanders of the rebels in Chechnya. Russian officials say Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov organized the attack a week ago at a school in southern Russia. Aslan Maskhadov is the former president of Chechnya. Both men denied any involvement. More than three hundred people were killed at the school in the town of Beslan in North Ossetia. Many of them were children. A group of thirty men and women held more than one thousand people hostage for fifty-two hours. Russian officials say the attackers apparently set off explosives by accident. Many of the hostages then tried to flee and were shot. This led to a raid by Russian security forces that killed most of the attackers. Seven hundred people were injured in the resulting explosions and fire. A man identified as a captured hostage-taker appeared on state television. He said the attackers were told that the goal was to start a war across the Caucasus. The area has a mixture of ethnic and religious groups. Russian officials said several of the militants who seized the school came from other countries. Some attackers reportedly were Arabs. This has not been independently confirmed, informs VOANews. According to BBC News, children were arriving at the school on Bakhrushina Street in central Moscow: small girls with oversize ribbons festooning their hair, small boys, fidgety and chattering, dwarfed by large satchels. Welcoming them in, the headmaster, Vyacheslav Nikolayevich was understandably nervous. Terrorism is on everyone's mind in Russia these days, and nowhere more so than in schools, now potential targets. Already extra funding has been allocated. There has been talk of panic buttons to alert local police or guards on the playground but the rhetoric has not yet been translated into action. Chechen militants are also eligible for a $13 million reward for any information leading to the arrest of top Chechen rebel leaders, a Russian security official said Saturday. In a released statement, Russia's Federal Security Service said it "is prepared to co-operate with anybody, among them members of illegal armed formations, without harming their personal security or restricting their right to the monetary reward." Earlier this week Russia said it would pay dearly for the capture of two Chechen rebel leaders: Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov. Russia's foreign minister believes Chechen warlord, Basayev, directed the school hostage-taking in Beslan. He also claims that Maskhadov, Chechnya's former president, was also involved in the incident. Russian officials say Chechens were among the 11 attackers identified in hostage drama. Saturday's clarification about who can claim the reward money appears to be aimed at exploiting dissension among rebels who, according to some news reports, were at odds over the taking of child hostages, reports CBC News.

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