MOSCOW – Russia's chief prosecutor said some of the weapons used by the militants behind the hostage-taking at a southern Russian school were obtained in a series of attacks on police posts in June.
Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov's (search) comments, made in an interview published Thursday in the Kremlin-backed newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, offered further evidence that the hostage-taking at School No. 1 in Beslan may have been organized by notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev (search).
Hundreds of fighters mounted a series of brazen, coordinated raids on police posts in Ingushetia in June, killing 88. The province borders both war-ravaged Chechnya and North Ossetia (search), where Beslan is located.
"It is reliably known that among the weapons seized from the terrorists [in Beslan] were seven Kalashnikov rifles and three pistols that were taken during the attack in Ingushetia on the night of June 22," Ustinov said in the interview.
A video appeared on a pro-rebel Web site in July showing Basayev and about a dozen other camouflage-clad men pulling weapons and ammunition boxes off shelves in a building. Basayev says on the video that the building is an Interior Ministry arsenal in Ingushetia (search).
Russian security officials later said the videotape was credible and that testimony from arrested suspects indicated Basayev had led the Ingush raids.
In Beslan, investigators have pursued leads that Basayev was the mastermind behind the hostage-taking, in which some 30 heavily armed militants seized the school and more than 1,200 people with relative ease.
The standoff ended in a hail of gunfire and explosions that killed 338 people, nearly half of them children.
Ustinov also said in the interview that the militants who participated in the Beslan raid had been promised between $200 and $300. But not all the militants realized that children would be taken hostage.
"And when one of the fighters in the school objected, the [militants'] leader personally shot him," Ustinov said.
Earlier, Umar Sikoyev, a lawyer for a captured raider, said the militants' commander did not tell them what their mission was and that some fighters argued when they learned children were being seized.
Sikoyev told The Associated Press that the commander shot the dissidents' leader to death and then detonated the suicide belts worn by two women raiders by remote control.
In footage broadcast on state television, the captured raider, identified as Nur-Pashi Kulayev, said the fighters were told they were carrying out a task assigned by Basayev and separatist former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.
The Beslan attack was the third major terror attack to hit Russia in three weeks.