WASHINGTON – President Bush welcomed news that Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev had apparently been killed in a truck explosion in southern Russia.
"If he's in fact the person who ordered the killing of children in Beslan, he deserved it," Bush said Monday.
He made the comments in a roundtable interview with reporters from Russia, Germany, Italy and Japan ahead of his trip this week to Germany and to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a Group of Eight summit of global economic powers.
Basayev, 41, is believed responsible for modern Russia's worst terrorist attacks.
These include the seizure of a Moscow theater in 2002 in which dozens of hostages and militants died, the 2004 school hostage taking in Beslan that killed 331, and the seizure of about 1,000 hostages at a hospital in Budyonnovsk that killed about 100.
He was killed Monday when a dynamite-laden truck exploded in a convoy, Russian officials said.
A major Chechen rebel Web site confirmed the death of Basayev and called him "a martyr."
The Kavkaz-Center site, citing a member of the rebel parliament, said Basayev had died in an accidental explosion of a truck.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Basayev's killing "deserved retribution" for attacks in Beslan and Budyonnovsk, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
Basayev was the most notorious of the Chechen warlords, eluding Russian forces for years despite Kremlin vows to hunt him down and an offer of $10 million and plastic surgery to anyone providing information leading to his death
Alu Alkhanov, president of the Kremlin-backed government in Chechnya, said Basayev's killing likely would undermine the Chechen rebel movement irreparably.
"I consider that today can be considered the date of the logical end of the fight against illegal armed formations," he said, according to Interfax.