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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Russia says the Chechen rebel leaders will be put on trial"
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The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"The four men were killed when a rescue attempt went wrong"
 real 56k

Monday, 12 March, 2001, 07:32 GMT
Chechen 'kidnappers' of Britons held
Chechen kidnap suspect Ruslan Akhmadov
The TV showed Ruslan Akhmadov - the prime suspect
Russian interrogators are to begin questioning a Chechen rebel leader about the kidnap and beheading of three British telecommunication engineers and a New Zealander in 1998.

Engineers Peter Kennedy, 46, from Hereford, Darren Hickey, 27, from Thames Ditton, Surrey, Rudi Petschi, 42, of Cullompton, Devon, and New Zealander Stan Shaw, 58, were kidnapped on 3 October 1998.

Darren Hickey
Darren Hickey: Exact circumstances of death unknown
They had been staying in the Chechen capital, Grozny, while installing a telecommunication system.

Ruslan Akhmadov, who is accused of ordering their deaths, has been arrested in Azerbaijan and handed over to the Russians with another wanted rebel leader, Badrudi Murtazayev.

The Foreign Office is monitoring the latest developments.

A spokesman said: "We are urgently checking these reports and are in touch with the families. We cannot say anything more and do not have any more information."

An inquest in the UK in October 1999 ruled that the men were unlawfully killed.

Rudulf Petschi
Rudulf Petschi: On engineering contract
The victims' severed heads were found by a road in war-torn Chechnya.

The men's bodies were handed over to the British ambassador in neighbouring Azerbaijan in December 1998, before being put on a plane for London.

Although the exact circumstances of the mens' death remains unclear, Westminster Coroners' Court heard that the men had been starved of food and water, and were repeatedly beaten before being decapitated.

Two of the men, both "wasting away", showed evidence of being tied up before they were beaten unconscious and their heads cut off from behind with a large blade, Home Office pathologist Dr Iain West told that hearing.

This is without question a major coup on the part of the Russian law-enforcement agencies

Kremlin aide Sergey Yastrzhembskiy
Three of the engineers were working for Surrey-based Granger Telecom and one worked for British Telecom.

At the time of the men's deaths, Tory MP Angela Browning called for an inquiry into how the Foreign Office handled an investigation into the murders.

The Chechen suspects were arrested in Azerbaijan and extradited to Russia, where they were paraded on Russian television on Sunday.

A Kremlin spokesman said Ruslan Akhmadov was a member of a gang that kidnapped and killed the four telecoms engineers.

Map showing Chechnya
The Kremlin's chief spokesman on Chechnya, Sergey Yastrzhembskiy, said: "This is without question a major coup on the part of the Russian law-enforcement agencies".

Mr Akhmadov and the other detainee - Badrudi Murtazayev - were arrested in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Wednesday. News of their arrest and handover to Russia emerged only on Sunday.

They are now being held in Makhachkala, capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan, which borders on Chechnya.

Russian Public TV said Mr Akhmadov was accused of having a hand in "more than 30 kidnappings - and most likely this is just the tip of the iceberg".

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia targets UK Chechens
01 Oct 00 | Europe
Analysis: Chechnya one year on
08 Dec 98 | Europe
Chechnya kidnap victims dead
24 Dec 99 | UK Politics
MP demands Chechen hostage inquiry
12 Mar 01 | Media reports
Russia parades Chechen 'kidnappers'
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