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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March 2005, 12:11 GMT
What happened in the Maskhadov raid?
Bunker where Maskhadov was found
Maskhadov was found in a bunker under a house in the village
Details have been emerging of the raid which led to the killing of the Chechen rebel leader, Aslan Maskhadov, though it is still not clear exactly how he died.

Russian security forces (FSB) had apparently intended to take Maskhadov alive in their special operation on 8 March in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, near Grozny.

Two versions of his death have been put forward.

Regional army spokesman Gen Ilya Shabalkin said Mr Maskhadov had been blown up in a bunker where he was hiding.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant, quoting participants in the operation, appeared to confirm this, adding that he had refused to surrender despite attempts by his entourage to persuade him.

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But the Moscow-backed Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said Mr Maskhadov was probably killed as a result of an associate's carelessness in handling his gun.

Unlikely hideout

The FSB said a week after the raid that a tip-off from citizens responding to a $10m (5.2m) bounty on Maskhadov's head led to the killing of the rebel leader.

The tip-off "helped us establish the precise location of the international terrorist and band leader... and conduct a special operation," an FSB spokesman said.

Earlier, Russian media speculated that Maskhadov was in the village to carry out a Beslan-style attack and the raid was a pre-emptive operation.

He was inside an underground concrete bunker, which we had to blow up in order to get inside - this is how this bandit was killed
Gen Ilya Shabalkin
Regional army spokesman

Others said he was simply hiding from Russian forces. Kommersant points out that Tolstoy-Yurt, as the home village of the controversial former Russian parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, has always been a stronghold of opposition to the rebels and therefore no-one would have considered looking for him there.

Hours after the dawn raid began, Russian special forces, accompanied by pro-Moscow Chechens, surrounded Maskhadov's hideout.

"He was inside an underground concrete bunker, which we had to blow up in order to get inside. This is how this bandit was killed," Gen Shabalkin said.

When they got inside, they found Maskhadov dead but his aides alive. They included Mr Maskhadov's chief of staff Vakhit Murdashev.

According to Kommersant's sources, Maskhadov's aides had seen the hopelessness of the situation and spent nearly an hour trying to persuade him to give himself up.

He was killed only after their attempts proved unsuccessful and they had themselves surrendered, the newspaper said.

'Disgrace'

Villagers heard a series of explosions around the time of his death, suggesting he was killed by a grenade, but the body said by Russian TV to be Maskhadov's did not have any visible wounds that were the result of explosives.

Mr Kadyrov said one of Maskhadov's aides had been scared and had shot him accidentally, adding that it had not been the intention of the Russian forces to kill him.

He said it was a "disgrace" for a warrior to die on International Women's Day, celebrated as a public holiday in Russia.

"Our fighters... did not shoot at him and wanted to take him alive, so he could congratulate our women on 8 March and ask their forgiveness," he told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Mr Kadyrov, whose father - pro-Moscow President Akhmad Kadyrov - was assassinated last year by rebels, was also quoted as saying he had intended to give Mr Maskhadov a job in one of his own armed groups.


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