10 of 32 terrorists at Beslan were Arab nationals with Al Qaida ties

Monday, September 6, 2004

MOSCOW Russian investigators said Arab operatives linked to Al Qaida played a major role in the takeover of a Russian school in which 400 people were killed.

Russian officials said authorities have determined that 10 of the 32 suicide attackers who took over a high school in Beslan in North Ossetia last week were nationals from several Arab countries. Most of the attackers were Chechens and Ingush who had been trained at Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

The 10 Arab nationals came from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, officials said. They said security forces seized notebooks in Arabic in the school taken over by insurgents. Officials said survivors told authorities that some of the captors spoke Arabic during the three-day hostage ordeal.

All of the captors were said to have been killed, but three accomplices were arrested, Middle East Newsline reported.

The Arab nationals were said to have been recruited in the Middle East and hosted by Shamil Basayev, head of the Chechen insurgency and aligned with Al Qaida.

"We're hoping to release additional information over the next few days," an official said. "But precise details will require cooperation from our allies."

The officials said the attackers were trained in Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan and financed by Abu Omar Al Seif, regarded as a leading Al Qaida operative and the organization's representative in Chechnya.

Al Seif, identified as the chief Islamic ideologue in the Chechen insurgency, was brought to Chechnya in 1995 by Saudi national Samir Saleh Abdullah Al Suwailem, known as Abu Khattab. Abu Khattab was said to have been killed in 2002.

Officials said Basayev received Saudi financial aid for at least a decade, most of it through Al Seif. They said Basayev and Al Seif employed hundreds of Saudi volunteers for suicide and other mass casualty attacks in Chechnya and other parts of Russia as well as raised funds required for the attack on the school in Beslan.

In December 2003, Federal Security Service spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko said virtually all of the suicide attacks in Russia over the last few years were organized by Al Seif and Abu Al Walid. Ignatchenko identified Al Walid as responsible for the Arab fighters in Chechnya.

"Major financial resources reach Al Walid and Abu Omar from extremist centers in a series of Arab countries," Ignatchenko was quoted as saying by the Itar-Tass news agency.

Several Middle East countries planned to increase security cooperation with Russia, officials said. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was scheduled to meet Israeli leaders in an effort to pave the way for expanded security cooperation. Saudi Arabia and Turkey have also agreed to increased security cooperation with Moscow. Victims of the insurgency attack included at least one Turkish national.

"The recent terrorist act in Russia has showed the importance of international cooperation in fight against terrorism," Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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