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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Russia tightens Caucasus security
Russian soldiers outside besieged Beslan school
Beslan was a major disaster for Russian forces in the region
Russia's interior minister has briefed President Vladimir Putin on a new leadership structure for security forces in the North Caucasus.

Rashid Nurgaliyev said 13 senior officers had been appointed to run special anti-terror groups to prevent any repetition of the Beslan tragedy.

Mr Putin ordered a shake-up of security forces following criticism of how they handled the Beslan school siege.

Sixty-two injured children and adults from Beslan are being flown to Moscow.

The injured are being flown aboard three planes to undergo specialist treatment in Moscow hospitals.

QUICK GUIDE

Russia blamed the mass hostage-taking in Beslan on Chechen rebels backed by foreign Muslim militants. It has offered 300m roubles ($10m; 5.7m) for information leading to the arrest of Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.

On Wednesday, the authorities in North Ossetia announced that the region's government was resigning. The republic's president, Alexander Dzasokhov, said officials guilty of failings over the Beslan disaster would be punished.

Investigation

At least 326 people were killed in last week's siege, about half of them children, and 727 were wounded, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said on Wednesday. More than 100 bodies have yet to be identified.


Mr Ustinov said the bloody climax to the siege seemed to have begun when the hostage-takers were rearranging explosives in the school gymnasium and accidentally detonated one of them.

He said the hostage-takers had gathered in a forest before on 1 September then driven to the school with a lorry and two jeeps packed with weapons and explosives.

Twelve had now been identified, he added, but gave no details of names or nationalities.

The town's children were celebrating the start of the new school year with parents and staff a week ago when they were taken hostage. The crisis ended in massive bloodshed on Friday.

Pre-emptive strikes

The Russian army's Chief of Staff, General Yuri Baluevsky, said Moscow planned to launch pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases "in any region of the world".

TRAGEDY IN NUMBERS
Video footage of the hostages and one of the hostage-takers in the school gym in Beslan
326 dead
More than 100 bodies unidentified
727 hostages injured

A spokesman for Mr Maskhadov, Ahmed Zakayev, described the threat as a "disturbing signal for civilised countries" and said it set a dangerous precedent.

"It is a warning to other European countries that Russia may come and carry out an assassination on your soil at any moment," he said.

However, analysts said the doctrine might only be applied to former Soviet countries - such as Georgia, to the south of Chechnya, which Russia has accused of providing a haven for Chechen fighters.

The two rebel leaders attracting offers of rewards from the Federal Security Service (FSB) have been wanted by Russian authorities for years in connection with various attacks.

Mr Maskhadov was elected president of Chechnya in 1997, but Moscow now considers him a terrorist.

Mr Basayev is a Chechen field commander, accused of masterminding operations and known for his extreme brutality.

He led the first Chechen mass hostage-taking in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk in 1995 and he claimed to have organised the seizing of a Moscow theatre in 2002, during which some 130 people died.




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