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Maskhadov's Body in Moscow

The body of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, who was slain by FSB commandos last week, has been sent to Moscow for forensic examination, officials said Friday.

But residents of the house where authorities said Maskhadov was killed in Tolstoy-Kurt denied that he had been hiding in their basement, casting doubt on Moscow's accounts of the killing.

Maskhadov's body was examined at a forensics laboratory in Rostov-on-Don on Thursday. A senior military medical officer, Lieutenant General Igor Bykov, said specialists there confirmed with 97 percent certainty that the body was Maskhadov's, Itar-Tass reported. It has also been identified visually by Maskhadov's relatives and associates.

It was then sent to Moscow for a final examination, officials said.

The Federal Security Service said Maskhadov was killed in a special operation on Tuesday after being found holed up in a bunker.

But Yakha Yusupova, who said she lived with her husband and 15-year-old daughter in the house, said that Maskhadov "was not here," and that she suspected federal forces may have brought him to the house Tuesday in a truck. She said the family had lived there for 27 years.

"He could not have been here," said Yusupova, 44, who returned to her home Thursday after what she said was questioning by authorities at a police precinct. "How could he have been in the house where we sleep, walk and eat?"

On Tuesday morning, Yusupova said, she was washing dishes and her husband was drinking tea when armed men came into the yard, took them outside, handcuffed her husband to a post and held her and her daughter all day in the garden, where they could not see what was happening in the house or the yard. But at one point a truck drove up and something was taken out, she said.

At about 10 a.m. local time, a soldier told them, "'Cover your ears, they're going to blow up your house now,'" and an explosion followed, she said. They were allowed into the house at night to warm up, and were taken in for questioning Wednesday. Staying with relatives Wednesday night, they learned from the television news "that Maskhadov had supposedly been killed at our house," she said.

Her comments came amid conflicting accounts of how Maskhadov died.

Chechen officials, meanwhile, said security forces killed a rebel warlord, Kantash Mansarov, on Sunday. They said he was the coordinator of undercover rebel operations in Grozny.

In a related development, scores of people demonstrated against Maskhadov's killing in Turkey and Poland. Thousands of protesters gathered outside an Istanbul mosque after Friday prayers, carrying pictures of Maskhadov and chanting "Murderer Putin, get out of the Caucasus" and "No to Putin in the Caucasus." Several hundred Chechen refugees and Poles rallied outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw on Saturday, days after the Polish foreign minister harshly criticized the killing.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry lashed out at foreign media and politicians for expressions of regret over the death of Maskhadov.

(The Moscow Times 14.iii.05)

 
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