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Friday, January 11, 2008

Latynina on Beslan

Writing in the Moscow Times, hero journalist Yulia Latynina speaks about Russia's Wiesenthal:

Last week, Senator Alexander Torshin, former head of the parliamentary commission that investigated the Beslan school attack, shared some news about the investigation with Ekho Moskvy radio.

"We are working according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center principle," Torshin said. "Those who suffered at Beslan are in touch with me."

Torshin revealed the name of one more terrorist. There were eight unidentified terrorists and now seven remain. "He is from Moscow, from a good family, and he is not a native of the Caucasus," Torshin said.

This news, which spread across all the Internet sites, truly characterizes our native Wiesenthals who are leading the investigation. The terrorist in question was actually identified way back in April: He is Ilnur Gainullin, born in 1980 and an ethnic Tatar. He is also medical school graduate and a resident of Moscow. But our diligent Wiesenthals never released his name, as if it were a state secret.

Enough about Gainullin. What I really want to know is who was the ringleader of the Beslan attack and where is this person now?

This is not idle curiosity on my part. As early as Sept. 1, 2004, the first day that the Beslan school was taken hostage, Ali Taziyev was mentioned as one of the leaders. He is also known as Magomed Yevloyev, or Magas, and is the right hand of former Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who was killed in 2006. Among other things, Magas orchestrated the June 22 attack on Nazran.

Magas was declared dead on Sept. 3. And two years after the murder of Ingush Deputy Interior Minister Dzhabrail Kostoyev, the Interior Ministry said Magas was Kostoyev's killer. Within several days, Basayev appointed Magas to command the Ingush front.
The Prosecutor General's Office has always maintained that there were 32 terrorists, and that they drove in on a GAZ-66 truck -- which, by the way, cannot hold more than 25 people -- from a camp near the village of Psedakh. Independent experts, witnesses and hostages all confirm that there were, in fact, two groups of terrorists, and that the first group was already at the school when the second group arrived by truck.

At first glance, it would seem that the prosecutors' motive in insisting that there were 32 terrorists was to convince the public that none of them escaped alive. (The bodies of 31 terrorists were recovered. The 32nd, Nurpashi Kulayev, was captured and subsequently sentenced to life in prison.)

But the real reason is more sinister. The group of terrorists coming from Psedakh was led by Ruslan Khuchbarov, otherwise known as "the Colonel." If this is the case, then who commanded the second group? The answer: Magas.

This leads to the dreadful question of who was in charge -- Taziyev or Khuchbarov? This is a very difficult question because, according to the picture emerging from the investigation, it was Khuchbarov who handled negotiations with federal troops and delivered the terrorists' demands. This is in an important argument -- although it is not the only one -- suggesting that Khuchbarov was the chief terrorist. Another is that, according to the hostages' accounts, the man calling himself Ali left the school before the troops moved in. That is, he bailed out once it became clear that events had turned against him. This suggests that in such situations the top terrorist commander can abandon the scene to protect himself so that he can fight future battles.

In any case, one thing is clear: Either the chief terrorist in the Beslan attack or the leader of one of the two groups is currently leading the insurgents in Ingushetia. I think that acknowledging this fact is far more important than establishing the identity of Gainullin.

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