Russians show photos that 'prove Chechen beheadings'

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - Russian officials yesterday produced photographs which they said were proof that leaders of the the break-away Chechen republic had beheaded three people who had helped Moscow to capture Chechen hijackers. Stepping up a war of words against the rebellious southern republic, the Deputy Interior Minister, Anatoly Kulikov, said that the three men had been killed after helping security forces following a hijacking in the region in May.

'The people who helped us in the arrest of the criminals in May were executed,' Mr Kulikov told a news conference which had been called concerning another hijacking in the region last week. Five people died when security forces stormed a helicopter and tried to free hostages.

One photograph showed three heads in a pool of blood. The other showed three headless corpses. Boris Baturin, the deputy head of the ministry's department fighting organised crime, said that the heads had been put on display in a square in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in mid-June.

He did not give details about the men, beyond saying they had helped operationally. He also said that the Chechen Interior Minister and his deputy, who helped Russian and Chechen police to co-operate to end the hijacking, had been sacked.

The Russian government has described the rule of the Chechen leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev, as illegitimate. The Chechen republic, an autonomous region in the northern Caucasus, declared independence in 1991. Russia does not accept the republic's secession. In the latest incident, the fourth hijacking near the Chechen republic in eight months, gunmen seized a bus with 41 aboard near the spa of Mineralniye Vody, and demanded helicopters and dollars 15m ( pounds 10m).