Beslan's increasingly restless residents were told yesterday that high-ranking Russian military officers who "were still at their posts" were suspected of helping Chechen militants seize the town's school last September.
Two men holding a rank "higher than a major and a colonel" were said to be involved in the plot and had apparently deliberately not fulfilled the functions for which they are paid, presumably in exchange for some kind of bribe.
The revelation, disclosed by the parliamentary commission investigating the atrocity, appeared to shatter the illusion that the tragedy was the isolated work of a small band of Chechen separatists.
It is likely to enrage the victims' mothers who are becoming increasingly vociferous in their demands that the president of North Ossetia, the republic where Beslan is located, should resign. Last week they blocked Beslan's main highway for three days to press their demands and are threatening to take further "illegal" action if Alexander Dzasokhov, whom they accuse of failing to protect their children, does not step down.
Alexander Torshin, chairman of the parliamentary commission looking into the bloodbath, said yesterday that "a terrorist act of such a scale would have been impossible to commit without accomplices."
In the mayhem that followed the seizure of the school on 1 September, 330 people died, 186 of whom were children. Many residents have found it impossible to fathom how a group of militants allegedly numbering no more than 32 was able to hold more than 1,100 people hostage for three days.
It is also unclear how they managed to smuggle so many weapons into the school, passing through so many official checkpoints. It is known that several policemen readily accepted bribes to turn a blind eye.
Two accomplices have been detained, a further three are on the run and yesterday Mr Torshin claimed that he had passed information to the law enforcement authorities concerning a further two accomplices.
While the accomplices identified so far have been local civilians, Mr Torshin said the duo being sought both held a military rank "higher than a major and a colonel".
Another member of the parliamentary commission, Vladimir Kulakov, said the accom- plices being sought worked at "the federal level" suggesting that some of the officials/military officers being sought may be based in Moscow itself.
People in Beslan reacted wearily to the news. "I am not surprised by this. This is Russia after all and people are often tempted to do anything for money," said a local man who declined to be named.
Only one of the actual participants in the siege was captured alive. Nur-Pasha Kulaev, a 24-year-old Chechen, admitted he had taken part. He is expected to be formally sentenced in the near future while the parliamentary investigation is expected to release its final report in the next two months.Reuse content