July 10, 2006

Russia’s Chechen leader Basayev killed on eve of G8

By Richard Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's most wanted man, Chechen rebel
leader Shamil Basayev, was killed during an overnight operation
by special forces, the state security chief told President
Vladimir Putin on Monday.

FSB security agency chief Nikolai Patrushev said Basayev,
who had claimed responsibility for the bloody 2004 Beslan
school attack, had been planning an attack in southern Russia
to disrupt the Group of Eight summit of world leaders Putin is
hosting this weekend in St Petersburg.

Putin, whose already huge popularity will be boosted by the
news just as he prepares to mark a high point of his six years
in power by hosting the G8 summit, said Basayev's death was
"deserved retribution" for his campaign of killing.

More than 331 people, half of them children, were killed in
Beslan in September 2004 after Russian forces tried to end a
siege of the school which had been seized by Islamist militants
linked to Chechnya's fight for independence.

"This is deserved retribution against the bandits for our
children in Beslan, in Budennovsk, for all these acts of terror
they committed in Moscow and other Russian regions, including
Ingushetia and Chechnya," the Kremlin leader said in televised

Budennovsk was a reference to an attack on a hospital in
June 1995 -- long before Putin came to power. Rebels seized
hundreds of hostages in the southern town and more than 100
people died during the rebel assault and a botched Russian
commando raid.

FSB chief Patrushev said Basayev, together with other
Chechen fighters, was killed in Ingushetia, a region
neighboring Chechnya.

Patrushev said it was in Ingushetia that Basayev and his
men had been planning to carry out a terrorist act to coincide
with the G8 summit.

"They intended to use this terrorist act to put pressure on
Russia's leadership at a time when the G8 summit was being
held," Patrushev said.

Pictures on state television showed the wreckage of a truck
that had been packed with explosive and apparently blew up,
killing Basayev and several other rebels.

There was no information that the truck had been under fire
from security forces when the blast happened.

A statement on website www.kavkazcenter.com said the
Chechen rebel leadership was not making any comment for the
time being.

The heavily-bearded Basayev, who was born in 1965,
professed to be a devout Muslim. His left foot was blown off by
a mine in 2000 and he wears a prosthesis.

Basayev, in a television interview aired last year,
justified the attack on Beslan by saying Russian civilians --
including children -- were legitimate targets in his homeland's
bloody fight for independence from Moscow.

"We are at war. Russians ... pay their taxes for this war,
send their soldiers to this war, their priests sprinkle holy
water on the soldiers," Basayev said in his soft lilt.

"How can they be innocent? Russians are accomplices in this
war. It is just they don't all have weapons in their hands," he
said in the interview with Britain's Channel 4.

(editing by Ralph Boulton; Additional reporting by Meg
Clothier and Oliver Bullough)