Russian security service paid $10 million for information leading to Maskhadov's killing

Russia's Federal Security Service said Tuesday that it had paid a reward of $10 million for information on the exact location of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Maskhadov was killed last week in a special operation in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, in northern Chechnya. The security service had announced in September that it would pay the reward for tips on the top rebel leader's whereabouts.

The security service's press office said Tuesday that the agency would be prepared to help the people who provided the information to move to another region of Russia or to a Muslim country. It was unclear how many people would split the reward.

"The Russian Federal Security Service confirms its preparedness to guarantee personal security and payment of an appropriate monetary award to citizens providing trustworthy information on the whereabouts of the terrorist leaders," the press office said. The killing of Maskhadov, one of Russia's most-wanted men, was a victory for the security services, who have struggled to penetrate the tightly-knit clan society of Chechnya. Maskhadov and other rebel leaders appeared able to move about fairly freely in the region, where they boasted of a large network of collaborators.

The announcement of the reward came a day after authorities said they had blown up the house where Maskhadov was killed because they feared the building could have been booby trapped. But rights activists and government critics questioned the motives for the building's destruction, which added to the secrecy surrounding last week's raid. Col.-Gen. Arkady Yedelev, chief of the federal headquarters for the campaign in Chechnya, said Monday that demolition experts who inspected the bunker where Maskhadov was said to have been hiding had discovered and detonated a box that contained documents and was riddled with explosives.

"The team of investigators decided to blow up the entire house to avoid such surprises in the future," Yedelev said in a statement.

Federal troops arrived Sunday in several trucks and armored vehicles, ordered residents of neighboring buildings to clear the area and then blew up the house in a powerful blast, witnesses said.

While federal authorities said Maskhadov was hiding in the bunker, Yakha Yusupova _ who lived in the house with her family _ denied the rebel leader had been there and said she suspected Russian forces may have brought him on Tuesday.

Several prominent Russian rights activists on Monday joined Maskhadov's family in calling on Russian authorities to return his body for burial.

"Refusing to hand over the body to the relatives of the deceased is a shame," representatives of three rights groups wrote in a statement carried by the Interfax news agency.

They also criticized the security services for killing the rebel instead of capturing him.

"Considering the technical equipment special forces have, Maskhadov could have been captured alive and could have stood trial," they said.

Later Russia's security service reaffirmed Tuesday that it would pay $10 million (EUR7.5 million) reward for information leading to the death or arrest of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev.

Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service said his agency "guarantees the payment of a $10 million reward for information about Basayev's whereabouts," the Interfax news agency reported.

Associated Press

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