Moscow, Sept. 8 (NNN): Russia on Wednesday offered a whopping 300 million roubles ($10 million) on any information leading to the arrest of Chechen leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov, alleged masterminds behind the recent school carnage in Beslan in which some 400 people, mostly children were killed.
The two rebel leaders named by the Federal Security Bureau (FBI) have been wanted by Russian authorities for years in connection with various attacks in Russia.
"For many years Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov, the leaders of illegal armed groups, staged inhuman acts of terrorism on the territory of the Russian Federation, which involved a tremendous loss of life," the security services said.
They called "for the information on their whereabouts, which could help neutralise those criminals. Anonymity and security are guaranteed".
Chechen rebel spokesman Akhmed Zakayev had previously said the rebels had no part in the "barbaric act of terrorism".
He blamed the attack on "local radical groups" and warned that President Putin's "punitive policy" in the region would make a "repeat of the Beslan tragedy inevitable".
Meanwhile, in Beslan, residents are preparing to bury about 400 victims, including children, killed in the siege.
Earlier, Russia's president Vladimir Putin attacked those calling for Russia to enter talks with Chechen separatists after the Beslan school siege.
Putin also rejected a public inquiry into events that led to special forces storming the school on Friday. He told two British newspapers that entering talks was akin to the West negotiating with Osama Bin Laden.
Forensic specialists are to begin DNA testing of the 107 bodies so badly damaged by fire and explosions that they remain unidentified.
"No-one has a moral right to tell us to talk to child killers," Putin was quoted as saying by Britain's Guardian and Independent newspapers.
He added: "Why don't you meet Osama Bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace? You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?"
The Guardian quoted Putin as saying he would hold an inquiry into Beslan, but not a public one."I want to establish the chronicle of events and find out who is responsible and might be punished," the paper reported him as saying.
The comments came against a backdrop of rising concern about the events that led to the bloody end to the siege on Friday.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin joined calls by Russian papers for answers amid concern the authorities tried to play down the scale of the tragedy.
More than 200 people are still unaccounted for following the storming of the school buildings by Russian special forces.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had expressed Britain's "deep sympathy and horror" at the Beslan deaths, during in a conversation with Putin. "We live in a world where this form of terrorism without limits... can affect any country in the world," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Britain was "absolutely united in defeating that sort of terrorism", Blair added.
Meanwhile, Russia's newspapers have also been asking questions about the Kremlin's handling of the siege.
Even normally pro-Putin papers, such as Moskovsky Komsomolets, are critical of the government's handling of the crisis. The editor of one of Russia's biggest newspapers, Izvestia, said he was forced to resign on Monday because the paper's coverage was considered too emotional.
Arabic television station, al-Arabiya, says its Moscow correspondent was arrested on his return from Beslan, and Georgia says two of its journalists had been detained.
Meanwhile, military analyst Dr Jonathan Eyal told BBC News Online it was "staggering" that 40% of all the hostages were killed and another 40% injured. This was "much worse than in any other mass hostage crisis in living memory", said Eyal, Director of Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Broadcasters are urging Russians to take to the streets to rally against terrorism, with a major demo planned near Moscow's Red Square expected to attract up to 100,000. The calls come on the second day of national mourning for the dead.
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